Proper 9B: Beyond Home

Beyond HomeOLD TESTAMENT: 2 Samuel 5: 1-5, 9-10

Read the Old Testament Lectionary passage

While the spirit of the LORD has rested upon David for some time, the formal coronation takes place in Hebron. David, now thirty years of age, has proved himself as a leader faithful to the LORD.  The coronation happens at Hebron. There is no crown or scepter to pass down. Rather, the people recognized the LORD’s anointing of David, the elders recognized him as king, and David made a covenant with them as their leader. You’ll remember that David was “anointed” as king by the prophet Samuel and at God’s direction. Then he was anointed king by the decision of the people of one tribe, the tribe of Judah.  This rule lasted about seven and ½ years. And now, after the house of David has grown stronger and stronger, all the tribes of North Israel acknowledge David as king.  The tribal leader has become a king. David would rule for a total of 40 years.  Jerusalem would become the City of David and Israel’s capital city.  (When you think about it, that was a choice that did not favor one tribe over another but rather began a unified kingdom in a new place.)

Now, it’s obviously wrong to picture this as some sort of idyllic situation.  David has not been the most compassionate of leaders.  In fact, he has taken Jerusalem by attacking its water system, the very heart of the city.  The verses that we skip contain a reference that sounds as if David is shunning or excluding the blind and the lame.  We’re not really sure to whom this actually refers.  There is a sense that the city was indeed so fortified that it was believed that even the blind and the lame could have fought off the intruders.  So this may be a slur of sort toward David’s enemies.  The point is that David, in spite of it all, has indeed risen to glory.  And he became greater and greater as the years went on.

Now the passage says that God was with David.  Well, that’s right, because, as we know, the Lord is with us all.  We have the assurance over and over in the Scriptures and in our lives.  But is this saying that God was on David’s side, even over and above against the blind and the lame, or David’s enemies, or whoever else is not standing in David’s court?  David was chosen and anointed by God.  He begins as a great leader, even though there may or may not have been some questionable ways of getting there.  A new order has begun.  There has got to be some excitement, some underlying hope for what will come.  After all, David has been given the power to change the world backed by a compassionate and deep love of communion with God.  David’s relationship with God was strong.  And yet, what responsibility does that hold?  David, like so many leaders before and after him, would have his ups and downs.  He would make questionable, if not bad, decisions.  So what does it mean for a leader to claim to be “anointed” by God?  Is it carte blanch to do whatever it takes to further the anointed agenda?  Or is it a calling to be something more?  What does it mean for a leader to be anointed by God?


  1. What is your response to this passage?
  2. How would you characterize David’s rise to leadership and the way he carried his reign out?
  3. What does it mean for a leader to be anointed by God?
  4. What message does this hold for our world today?


NEW TESTAMENT: 2 Corinthians 12: 2-10

Read the Lectionary Epistle passage

The setting of this part of this Second Letter to the Church at Corinth is a church that is beginning to fracture. There is escalating tension between Paul and this church that he loved. There were rival versions of the Gospel springing up everywhere and they were beginning to take hold. Many probably contained wildly popular mythical and fantastical versions of what heaven or what God looked like. We experience some of the same things today. Drama sells.

And yet Paul stops short of some sort of dramatic explanation. He acknowledges the existence of something beyond but also acknowledges that he does not and cannot know exactly what this is. Rather than finding God in some sort of mystical ecstasy, Paul claims that we find God in our weakness and our vulnerability. In fact, Paul seems to quash the idea of a divine justice where God rewards the faithful and punishes the weak. Rather, Paul lays out a scenario where God comes to us not in spite of our weakness but because of it. In fact, for Paul, our weakness and our vulnerability makes us stronger in the faith. It is not a test from God; it is a gift from God that even in our weakness we might be strengthened.

Sally A. Brown makes the point that “the culture is eyeing the churches these days, testing our credibility. Congregations may imagine that they cannot think about public witness until their internal problems, doctrinal and budgetary, are all resolved. But it may be precisely our internal challenges that press us into the kind of engagement with each other and with the Spirit that can turn us, sooner rather than later, away from cloying self-absorption and outward to the world God loves. Even in our weakness, maybe even because of it, we become credible witnesses of saving news in this frantic, fearful world.” (Available at, accessed 4 July, 2012.)

The truth is, the first Christian witnesses were completely counter to the culture, the society, and, for that matter, even the religion of the day.  They were considered unpatriotic and unfaithful.  They were fools, seemingly uninformed and unaware of the “right” view of God, the sure view of God.  And yet Paul’s message here essentially tells us that being “right”, being “sure”, is not the witness to which we are called.  Rather we are called to let God be God and in our vulnerability, our weakness, and our profound need for God in our life, to somehow try to listen to the voice that is calling us not to rise above the world but to witness to it.

  1. How does this passage speak to you?
  2. So what does it mean to become witnesses of the Gospel in our weakness?
  3. Why is it so difficult to admit our weaknesses in the face of our call to witness?
  4. What message does this hold for our society today?
  5. What message does this hold for our churches today?


GOSPEL: Mark 6: 1-13

Read the Lectionary Gospel passage

This story is told in all four Gospels. So to be told in all the Gospels, it must, then, have meant something. It must be a story to which we should listen. Leading up to this, Jesus was really having a good week. He had done three miracles in three days. That is a pretty good success rate. First, he had calmed the sea. Then he had healed the woman that had been bleeding incessantly for twelve years. And then he had raised a child in front of her grieving parents. Yes, things were going well. And so now he was coming back to his hometown, to those who knew him, to those who had “known him when”. And he began to teach.

The truth was that Jesus wasn’t seen as a prophet or a Messiah by this crowd. He was just one of them, this little kid that they remembered tagging along after Joseph as he did his carpentry work that had made good and of which they were very proud. They probably thought that his ministry would be a reflection on them. But Jesus was not cooperating. Jesus was standing there, calling them to change, calling them to look at things differently, to step out of their carefully constructed boxes and away from their earthly temples and actually become the people of God. Who did he think he was? God?

The truth is, Jesus was asking them to open some doors in their lives. As hard as it was for them to fathom, God was not some far-off inaccessible entity to which they could go when it was convenient and from which they could turn when it was not. This ordinary, earthly man standing before them was God—Immanuel, God-with-us—calling them to serve others, to put themselves out there, and to unlock all those closed doors in their lives.

We can identify. There are places that we view as “safe”, places that everyone agrees with us for the most part. So we go home expecting unconditional acceptance and full support of whatever it is we’re doing. But “prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown…” The problem is not that things at home are different. The problem is that we have changed. If we’ve done what God has called us to do, we’ve actually gotten in the way of our own lives.

I don’t really think that Jesus was shunning his family or leaving them forever. I think he was realizing that he was a different person than the one that had left. He knew that what was around him had to change too. He loved his family, but you really can’t go home again. Not because home has changed, but because you have.

That’s the way life is sometimes. Think of yourself like water in a river. The free, uninterrupted flow of life is fine until it encounters some sort of obstacle. It does not go back the way it came but instead it either turns its course or waits until it is filled enough to overcome whatever is in its path, making it a part of itself.

So, Jesus used it as a teaching moment. He called the disciples and sent them out in twos. After all, everyone needs a sounding board, a community, small as it may be. Everyone needs someone to support and affirm them. Jesus knew that. And he told them that they, too, would encounter rejection. But there was work to be done.   After all, those doors are not opened merely to welcome people in. They are also opened to call us out into the world.  Those open doors connect the world to life as we know it in Christ; but they also take that life into the world. And sometimes that’s a whole lot harder for us.  It means stepping out; it means putting ourselves into a place that is not the way we know; it means leaving what is safe and familiar and following where God leads.


  1. What meaning does this passage hold for you?
  2. What does it mean to essentially say we can’t go home again?
  3. What message does this hold for our world today?
  4. Where do you find yourself in this story?

Some Quotes for Further Reflection:

Any society which does not insist upon respect for all life must necessarily decay. (Albert Einstein)

I claim credit for nothing. Everything is determined, the beginning as well as the end, by forces over which we have no control…We all dance to a mysterious tune, intoned in the distance by an invisible piper. (Albert Einstein)


I think we can say that democracy is a form of government that demands more virtue of its citizens than any other form of government…So let us term freedom of choice less a virtue than a necessity, a precondition to real freedom, which is the ability to make choices that are generous, loving, and wise. Our wills are not free when they will what is bigoted, narrow, ungenerous. Our wills are only free when they can will the will of a loving God. “They will be done on earth.” (William Sloane Coffin, Credo, 80-81)





We know well the “honor roll” of nation states and mighty empires that run all the way from Egypt and Assyria to Britain and Japan and Russia—and finally us. We know about the capacity for order that they have and the accompanying capacity for exploitation and violence. We know that the great powers, while held in your hand, are tempted to autonomy and arrogance. In the midst of war, we ponder modern empire.


In these moments, we hold our own resource-devouring empire up in your presence. For the moment, we pray for it: forgiveness for its violence, authority for its vision of freedom, chastening for its distorted notion of peace.


We pray, for the moment, that our very own empire may be a vehicle for your good purposes. Beyond that, we pray the old hope of our faith: that the kingdoms of this world would become the kingdom of our God and of his Christ. We do not doubt that you will reign forever and ever. Along with all waiting powers, we sing gladly: Forever and ever, Hallelujah! Hallelujah!


O beautiful for patriot dream that sees beyond the years thine alabaster cities gleam, undimmed by human tears! America! America! God mend thine every flaw, confirm thy soul in self-control, thy liberty in law. Amen.

(“On the Oracles against the Nations”, in

Prayers for a Privileged People, by

Walter Brueggemann, p. 177-178

and “America the Beautiful” (vs. 3),

by Katherine Lee Bates, UMH # 696)

Proper 8B: Get Up and See What is New!

"Raising of Jairus' Daughter", George Percy Jacomb-Hood, 1885 (Oil on canvas)
“Raising of Jairus’ Daughter”, George Percy Jacomb-Hood, 1885 (Oil on canvas)

OLD TESTAMENT: 2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27

To read the Old Testament Lectionary passage, click here

We sort of passed over this part, but at the end of the First Book of Samuel, Saul and his son Jonathan are killed fighting the Philistines and so today we read David’s lament over them. (We don’t really know anything about the Book of Jashar—it is perhaps a book that has long since been lost into history.) It is interesting, though. Saul has been trying to kill David and David has been on the run from him. So, Saul’s death means that David is no longer a hunted man. He now has a clear shot to the throne of Israel. But Saul has many relatives and sons who could claim power with more legitimacy than David.

Jonathan, the other one who has been killed, is actually a close friend of David’s. So the lament begins with a call to not share this news with the Philistines, which would give them further cause to rejoice at Israel’s expense. By making this lament, David is placed in the role of a close relative or heir. And here, the relationship between Saul and David changes somewhat. David is now speaking on behalf of Israel. It is just good politics. And his own lament for Jonathan is for a friend that he has lost.

But the lament goes deeper than that. It is also a lament for Saul, the man who had tried to kill him. The death of Saul marks the defeat of Israel. David curses the very mountains where Saul has died. So this lament is not only an expression of grief but may also be David’s own realization that he has gone too far. He has lost both his closest friend and his greatest enemy. Everything has changed.   And David realizes that the grief he is experiencing is even more challenging.

But David also realizes that the grief that he experiences is not private. Any time a community experiences a shift of any sort, there is always some grief. There is even disbelief. Perhaps it is also a commentary on the tragedy of war. Either way, the lament is real. It is from the deepest part of the soul. And it acknowledges that even grief and sadness and disbelief are part of life, part of God.

And we are all familiar with the words from this passage, “How the mighty have fallen!” But often we use it almost as a sort of satisfaction that someone has “gotten their due.” Is that really what it is here? It seems to be more shock and disbelief and a sort of question of “What next?” Maybe the “What next?” question is the important thing. Where do we go when the world as we know it has been shattered? Where do we go when, seemingly, for good or bad, we are left to pick up the pieces? Where do we go when all of the characters that were in place before have somehow changed? How do we “fix” it? Maybe the story is about healing, about wholeness, about experiencing those painful and cataclysmic shifts in our lives when God invites us to something new.


  1. What is your response to this passage?
  2. How would you characterize David’s grief and his lament?
  3. What strikes you about David’s friendship with Jonathan?
  4. What strikes you about David’s relationship with Saul?
  5. What message would this story have for our world or society today?


NEW TESTAMENT: 2 Corinthians 8: 7-15

To read the Lectionary Epistle passage, click here

This passage falls within a two-chapter section where Paul appeals to the Corinthians for money to help “the saints”, who are most likely the churches in Jerusalem. He calls the endeavor a charis, which is translated as “generous undertaking”. But the word charis is also translated in other places as “grace” or “blessing”. (It’s the same root as our “charisma” or “charismatic”) So Paul uses it to describe the gifts of the Macedonian churches and presents them as harmonious, of good will, generous, sincere, deeply and fervently pious, and strongly affectionate toward Paul and his coworkers. Then he begins with flattery, essentially trying to convince the Corinthians that they are just as good as the Macedonians.

So it appears that getting a congregation to dig deep into its pockets is as old as Christianity itself (and my guess would be that it’s actually older). Picture Corinth as one of the sort of “up and coming” cities by the sea that enjoyed a flourishing economy and a prime spot in Rome’s eyes. So because the Jerusalem “mother church” was poor, Paul urged the more prosperous Corinthians to do the right thing. But, of course, the reason that they are asked to give is because they have been given to in Jesus Christ. Christ gave up everything for them; what portion of their abundance can they do without? He is not, though, falling into the trap of claiming that God should be worshipped with money. There is nothing about “paying God back” or about rewards for our investment in the beyond. In other words, the argument is pretty sound: We’re all in this together. Give what you can. Give what you are called to give.

It seems that Paul is not only pressing them to give, but also to realize why giving is important. For Paul, financial stewardship is not gratitude, but about living a Christ-shaped life. Stewardship is really a form of communion in the name of Christ. It is a way of participating with Christ in the building of the Kingdom of God. His passion and his focus is about more than raising money; it is about furthering God’s Reign in the world. He believes that the way believers use their resources—money, time, talents (charis)—is a reflection on their understanding of God, God’s Kingdom, and themselves as children of God. This is not intended to be a stewardship campaign; it is, rather, the way the Gospel is lived out in our community and our lives. It is a vision of a Kingdom that shares resources, shares lives, and, together, brings about God’s vision here on earth. It is not a vision of a world where everyone is the same but rather a vision of a whole balance.

Walter Brueggemann contends that the Bible starts with a Liturgy of Abundance. He sees Genesis 1 as praise for God’s generosity. And throughout Genesis, the Israelites celebrate God’s abundance and generosity. Then by Genesis 47, the concept of scarcity is introduced. Pharaoh has all the land except that belonging to the priests. The world has shifted. What will we do now?

  1. How does this passage speak to you?
  2. What is you reaction to pleas for financial gifts?
  3. How do you equate financial giving with spirituality?
  4. What does the notion of the “liturgy of abundance” versus the “liturgy of scarcity” mean for you?
  5. What message does this passage hold for our society today or for us as individuals?
  6. Do you think you live more within a liturgy of abundance or a liturgy of scarcity?
  7. What does the way we use our resources say about our understanding of God, God’s Kingdom, and ourselves as children of God?


GOSPEL: Mark 5: 21-43

To read the Lectionary Gospel passage, click here

Here, the writer of the Gospel According to Mark, inserts one story into another to provide an ongoing theme. Here, when a wealthy man wants Jesus to heal his daughter, he must wait for the healing of a destitute woman. Jairus was highly-esteemed and probably wealthy. He recognizes Jesus and begs Jesus to heal his daughter. So Jesus agrees to travel with him to address his need. But then suddenly a woman appears. She has suffered for twelve years with a “flow of blood”, implying some sort of menstrual disorder. (Now keep in mind, according to the Hebrew laws laid out in our Book of Leviticus, that blood could not be touched and mixed with other fluids, so, essentially, she would have been shunned from society.) She seems to not really understand what Jesus is about; it seems that she sort of has a magical understanding of Jesus’ healing powers.

The number “twelve” is always significant—all-encompassing, all-pervasive (i.e. twelve tribes, twelve apostles). Think about it she had to be exhausted. It had consumed her life. And, interestingly enough, the little girl was twelve years of age, the age signifying the onset of menstruation, of adulthood.

So, later, Jesus says that it the woman’s faith—not magic, not even miracles—that not only makes her well but also brings her salvation. In the meantime, though, Jairus’ daughter has died. But Jesus admonishes everyone that death is not the final answer. In the presence of God’s healing power, even death does not overtake life. The child is restored to life and is shown to be “only sleeping”.

Think about it, though. We talk about the great faith of the hemorrhaging women, but what about Jairus? In Jesus’ day, about 60% of live births died by their teens. (And these were the ones who were viably born at all!). AND this child was a girl. At the time, no one really much cared whether or not female children lived. They were really almost a drain on the family’s resources. And yet, this father couldn’t bear to lose his little girl. He was a wealthy leader in the community. He crossed the line of “acceptable protocol” and asked Jesus, who many doubted was even for real, for help.

Throughout this passage and, indeed, throughout Mark, the word “immediately” is used. The writer of Mark’s Gospel had a real sense of the urgency of Jesus’ message. But we should not get wrapped up in this passage as one demonstrating that things always end in “happy endings”. Christ is the ruler over all things—time and space, planned and interrupted, and even life and death. Persons of faith will suffer but they will always, through the healing touch of faith in Christ, live in peace and wholeness. That is what healing is about. Think about the faith of the hemorrhaging women. She had the audacity to transgress a whole host of social protocols when she touches Jesus’ robe without permission. And Jairus’ faith, causes him to fall prostrate at Jesus’ feet. These challenge us to examine our own faith, asking how we find the strength to claim God’s promises of healing and hope for ourselves, and how we empower others to do the same.

Notice, too, that Jesus does not pick and choose how and to whom wholeness comes. Everyone who is suffering, everyone who is in need, is a child of God. Everyone is invited into it and it is not really acceptable for anyone to want. In a sermon on this passage entitled “Healing Powers” (06/19/2009), Kate Huey writes:

Barbara Brown Taylor and Frederick Buechner have both written beautiful sermons on this text, and they bring the scene alive before our eyes. Buechner is tender as he puts us in the place of the little girl, as Jesus speaks to us, taking our hand and telling us to rise up and live: “You who believe, and you who sometimes believe and sometimes don’t believe much of anything, and you who would give almost anything to believe if only you could…. ‘Get up,’ he says, all of you–all of you!” Jesus gives life not only to the dead, but to those of us who are “only partly alive…who much of the time live with our lives closed to the wild beauty and the miracle of things, including the wild beauty and miracle of every day we live and even of ourselves.” That, Buechner says, is the power at the heart of this story and all of our stories: “the power of new life, new hope, new being.” Whether we take notice or not, miracles happen around us every day, and “every single breath we take,” Taylor writes, “is a free surprise from God. Faith does not work miracles. God does.” And every miracle, she says, is “a preview of the kingdom.”

  1. What meaning does this passage hold for you?
  2. How does this speak to you about your own faith?
  3. What interruptions get in the way of our faith?
  4. What “social protocols” get in the way of our faith?
  5. What message does this hold for our world today?

Some Quotes for Further Reflection:

Prayer is not simply a matter of bending the vector of divine will toward my will, my needs, and my hopes. More profoundly to ask something of God is to edge into deeper relationship with God. God’s mind may or may not be changed, but I–my mind and heart–may be. (Michael Lindvall)

In the midst of the sorrows is consolation, in the midst of the darkness is light, in the midst of the despair is hope, in the midst of Babylon is a glimpse of Jerusalem, and in the midst of the army of demons is the consoling angel.  The cup of sorrow, inconceivable as it seems, is also the cup of joy.  Only when we discover this in our own life can we consider drinking it. (From Can You Drink the Cup? by Henri J.M. Nouwen, 38)

 God does not promise that we shall all be spared suffering but does promise to be with us in our suffering. Trusting that promise, we are enabled to recognize God’s sustaining presence in pain, sickness, injury, and estrangement. Likewise, God does not promise that we will be cured of all illnesses; and we all must face the inevitability of death… The greatest healing of all is the reunion or reconciliation of a human being with God. (U.M. Book of Worship, p. 614-615.)                                                                          



Incoming tide of God, Overwhelm me.  Carry me out into Your unimaginable depths.  Amen. (Pat Bennett, from Friends and Enemies)