Lament and hope

Proper 8 (June 28, 2009)
Common Lectionary Readings:
II Sam. 1:1, 17-27; Lam. 3:22-33; II Cor. 8:7-15; Mark 5:21-43

We spent the week in Amman, meeting with staff and partners, editing completion reports for a number of projects and preparing for upcoming travel to Iraq and Israel-Palestine.

One evening over dinner, we listened to two young adults from the United States talk about their experiences in Jordan. Both ventured to Amman after college to spread their wings and share their gifts. At one point, our conversation turned to the church. “I love Jesus,” one of them declared, “It’s the church that I don’t like.” It was challenging commentary as we reflect on how the church can be more engaging, compelling and welcoming to the younger generation.

The situation in Iran continues to be tense in the aftermath of the June 12 presidential election. Supporters of the opposition candidate allege that the voting was marred by irregularities. Small demonstrations continue in spite of warnings by Iran’s Supreme Leader that they will not be tolerated. A significant debate is unfolding inside Iran. MCC has issued a call to pray for Iran.

Iraqis mourn the loss of life in Baghdad (AFP photo from Al Jazeera website)

There has been an up tick in violence in Iraq as U.S. troops prepare to leave major urban areas. In one attack, a suicide bomber killed more than 70 persons in a Baghdad market. In a second blast in Iraq’s capital more than a dozen persons were killed.

The Common Lectionary readings this week reflect on lament and hope.

In the Old Testament reading, David laments the deaths of Saul and Jonathan. While it is no surprise that David would mourn the loss of his dear friend Jonathan, it is remarkable that David grieves the passing of Saul, who had tried many times to kill him (II Sam. 1:17-27).

Jeremiah despairs that God has made him to see affliction, driven him into darkness, turned against him, besieged him and shut out his prayers (Lam. 3:1-9)! “He has walled me about so that I cannot escape; he has put heavy chains on me,” Jeremiah laments (v.4). And yet Jeremiah finds this hope: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lam. 3:22-23).

In the Epistle reading, Paul laments the financial hardship that some in the Christian family are experiencing. He urges the church at Corinth to respond generously and justly – according to what it has not what it does not have (II Cor. 8:12). This kind of sacrificial giving has been modeled by the Macedonian church (vv. 1-5) and by Jesus himself (v. 9).

In the Gospel reading, Jarius, a leader of the synagogue, laments that his 12-year-old daughter is near death. He repeatedly begs Jesus to heal her (Mark 5:21-23). At the same time, a woman who has languished in sickness for 12 years touches Jesus’ garment in hopes of being healed (vv. 24-34). Jesus shows compassion and heals both the girl and the woman. “Daughter, your faith has made you well,” Jesus tells the woman, “Go in peace, and be healed of your disease” (v.34).

There is much to lament as one reflects on the violence around us. The human family struggles to treat one another justly, compassionately and with love. The Lectionary readings remind us that, like David, we are to love enemies as well as friends and that we are to share generously with those in need. This biblical challenge is rooted in the fact that God’s steadfast love never ceases, that God’s mercies are new every morning and that God’s faithfulness is great. As demonstrated in Jesus, God continues to bring healing to the most despairing and desperate of situations. This is our hope!

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