Scripture for this Sunday: 2 Samuel 1:1,17-27; Psalm 130; 2 Corinthians 8:7-24; Mark 5:21-43
This week has seen a bombardment of news, much of it emphasising the pace of change in our world: reaction to Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment; the burying of the dead in Charleston; violent killings in France, Kuwait and Tunisia; EU finance ministers and Greek brinkmanship; and the U.S. Supreme Court deciding in favour of gay marriage.
Meanwhile, the readings for this week point towards turmoil in other ages.
In the Roman Empire during the first century, life expectancy was about 70 – for those who survived childhood. Child mortality rates were high. People were used to the death of children – so why bother if a 12 year old girl was dead? Her father was bothered – enough to risk his position as synagogue leader and approach an itinerant rabbi with a dubious reputation who had just come from Gentile country.
Jesus responded with compassion – but was diverted by the touch of a desperate woman. Her illness made her ritually unclean, and she would have been excluded from her community. Jesus not only took care of her healing, but stopped to make an open restoration. Instead of him becoming unclean, she was cleansed.
The acts of healing that Jesus did were for God’s glory and a manifestation of God’s grace. Where there was trouble, Jesus responded – with compassion, not dogma or legalism.
We face similar challenges: can we respond to trouble with compassion, able to confront the taboos and prejudices of our time? This is not just about gay marriage in the USA (even if one of the readings speaks of David’s love for Jonathan). It’s about the environment, and a Pope’s studied and careful analysis of a trouble that will affect our children and their children. It’s about how we deal with the trouble of violence in the world. It’s about troubled economics and politics.
We need to remember that Saul’s fall from grace was about disobedience, neglecting to annihilate a people completely. We don’t take this as licence for genocide today.
What happens if the relationship that we have with God is not capable of evolution is that we end up being stuck. God has created us to evolve and change. That’s what life is.
Our relationship with God is ever changing, just as we are ever-changing. We are creatures of adaptation, evolution and change. Jesus brings this to focus in the light of God’s love and our duty to refract it into the world: our world, now – something Barack Obama captured in Charleston, talking about grace.
This is what Barack Obama said this week in that church in South Carolina:
… to put our faith in action is more than individual salvation, it’s about our collective salvation; … to feed the hungry and clothe the naked and house the homeless is not just a call for isolated charity but the imperative of a just society.
According to the Christian tradition, grace is not earned. Grace is not merited. It’s not something we deserve. Rather, grace is the free and benevolent favour of God as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings. Grace.
We may not have earned it, this grace, with our rancour and complacency, and short-sightedness and fear of each other — but we got it all the same. God gave it to us anyway … it is up to us now to make the most of it, to receive it with gratitude, and to prove ourselves worthy of this gift.