Monday, 25 June 2018

Readings, hymns and
sermon ideas for
Sunday 1 July 2018,
Fifth Sunday after Trinity

‘The Daughter of Jairus’ by James Tissot (1836-1902)

Patrick Comerford

Sunday next, 1 July 2018, is the Fifth Sunday after Trinity (Trinity V).

The appointed readings in the Revised Common Lectionary for Trinity V as adapted for use in the Church of Ireland are:

Continuous readings: II Samuel 1: 1, 17-27; Psalm 130; II Corinthians 8: 7-15; and Mark 5: 21-43.

Paired readings: Wisdom 1: 13-15, 2: 23-24; Psalm 30; II Corinthians 8: 7-15; and Mark 5: 21-43.

There is a link to the readings HERE.

II Samuel 1: 1, 17-27

The phrase ‘How the mighty have fallen’ occurs three times in the Old Testament reading.

Immediately before this reading, the story is told (I Samuel 31: 1-13) of a battle against the Philistines on Mount Gilboa, near the Sea of Galilee. This time, the Philistines defeat the Israelites, led by Saul.

Saul’s son and heir, Jonathan, is killed in battle, and Saul is so badly wounded that he takes his own life. Meanwhile, David has returned from defeating the Amalekites (verse 1), a nomadic tribe in the southern deserts, to Ziklag (near Gaza).

A different account of Saul’s death is given by an Amalekite (II Samuel 2: 2-16). He comes to David, saying that he has escaped from the battlefield after killing the gravely injured Saul, at Saul’s own request. He brings Saul’s crown to David, his lord. David and his troops mourn the loss of Saul and his son, and Israel’s defeat.

Because the Amalekite did not fear to kill ‘the Lord’s anointed’ (verse 14), David has him killed. The way is now open for David’s ascension to the throne.

What follows (verses 18-27) is a commemorative poem for Saul and Jonathan.

Psalm 130:

Psalm 130 is a prayer for deliverance from personal trouble, but it ends with a message to all people.

The depths are the chaotic waters, separation from God – as in Jonah’s prayer from the stomach of the great fish (Jonah 2: 2). May God be attentive to my pleas. God forgives, so he shall be revered. If God were to record all our misdeeds, how could anyone face him? He is merciful by nature, so I eagerly await his help, his word, a prophecy from him. I wait as do watchmen guarding a town from enemy attack.

Perhaps the psalmist has now received a prophecy of salvation which he tells to all: wait in hope for God, he offers unfailing love and freedom from grievous sin.

The south porch in the Byzantine the Church of the Panagia Acheiropoietos in Thessaloniki … Saint Paul reminds the Church in Corinth that the churches in Macedonia have contributed generously to the needs of the Church in Jerusalem (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

II Corinthians 8: 7-15

The Church in Jerusalem is in financial need once again. Christians at Corinth began collecting funds for them the previous year, but they appear to have stopped this, perhaps because of their internal disagreements referred to earlier in this epistle.

Meanwhile, the churches of Macedonia – in Philippi, Thessaloniki and Beroea – have contributed beyond measure to the Church in Jerusalem.

The Christians at Corinth were quarrelsome and divided, but meanwhile the churches in the Macedonian cities have been earnest in giving, putting their words and beliefs into action.

The great example of self-giving is Christ, who was rich being equal to the Father, but became poor or human for our sake.

Christ healing the woman in the crowd … a modern Orthodox icon

Mark 5: 21-43:

This Gospel reading (Mark 5: 21-43) tells the stories of how Christ responds to the plight of two very different people: a young girl is on her deathbed, and a woman who has been suffering for the previous 12 years, as long if not longer than the young girl has lived.

Both of them remain unnamed, like so many women in the New Testament.

One is the daughter of a leading male figure in the synagogue. But religious position and social status in the local community are of precious little value when a small girl is struck down with a death-threatening illness or disease.

In both cases, hope has run out for a little girl and for an old woman. In restoring their health, Christ teaches what faith means, Christ offers new hope, and Christ shows what love is.

In both cases these women are ritually unclean … a bleeding woman, a dying or dead women. Jesus should not touch them. Yet their plight touches the heart of Jesus, and he reaches out to them with a healing touch.

One young woman is restored to her place in her family and in her community. One older woman, who has lost everything, who is at risk of being marginalised even by the Disciples, is offered the hope of her proper place.

Reflecting on the Gospel reading

In this Gospel passage, there is a large cast of dramatis personae … of people who receive the gentle, caring, loving pastoral attention of Christ in equal measure, each within the list of people we are told should be our priority:

The crowd who gather around Jesus by the lake are going to learn what the Kingdom of God is like not through another sermon or another lecture, but by seeing what Jesus does. After the episodes in this Gospel reading, would each and every one of them been happy to wear one of those wristbands with the initials ‘WWJD’ – ‘What Would Jesus Do?’ If they looked at our actions for an example of Christian lifestyle, would they know what Jesus does?

Jairus is a respected provincial leader of the day. He shows what true worship is when he throws himself at the feet of Jesus. He prays, entreats, begs, not on behalf of himself, but on behalf of a sick and dying girl. If we were to look at ourselves today, would we see ourselves placing our lives at the feet of Christ and making our first priorities the needs of others who cannot speak for themselves?

By now the large crowd is pressing in on Jesus. They really want to see what he is about, what the Christian lifestyle is about. And who becomes the focus of attention within this crowd?

Too often in a crowd, it is those who get to the front first, who have the loudest voices, who are heard, whose demands are met.

But in this case, though, it is not the loud and the proud, the rich or the famous, who grab the attention of Christ – it is a weak, timid, neglected impoverished, exploited and sick woman. All her money has gone on quacks, and she has no man to speak up for her.

But look at what Christ does for her. Without knowing it, he heals her. And when he realises what has happened, he calls her ‘Daughter.’

In a society where men had the only voices, where to have a full place in society was to be known as a Son of Israel, she is called ‘Daughter.’ She too has a full and equal place in society, she is commended for her faith, she is restored personally and communally, she is offered healing, and she is also offered peace. From now on she can be at one with herself, with her society, with the world and with God.

But perhaps there was a danger that all this could become a sideshow for the crowd. Poor Jairus appears to have been forgotten. His household – perhaps religious and community leaders too – tell him to give up on Christ. The girl is dead. Was Christ only worth what he could do for their inner circle? If so, why bother with him any further?

Christ does not want to put on a show, either to impress the pressing crowd or to prove wrong the inner circle around Jairus. Instead, with just his three closest friends – Peter, James and John … the three disciples who would soon witness the Transfiguration – he goes directly to the house of the dying girl, where her family and neighbours are in the greatest distress.

It is shocking that when she dies the first reaction of some of the key local figures is to upbraid her father for seeking whatever help he can find for his daughter, and not to offer him comfort and sympathy. We can see that in his despair this man was finding no hope from his own community.

Their lack of compassion and sympathy contrasts sharply with the compassion Christ shows for the woman who has been suffering for 12 years. She has spent all her money with consultants and doctors and specialists. None of them has been able to offer a cure, and now that all her money has run out all her hope has run out too. It is all compounded by the fact that she is ritually unclean … no man should come near her.

Even as he was being told not to bother coming, even when he was being laughed at, Christ keeps focussed on who is important here – not those who shout the loudest and who press their demands.

Twelve-year-olds have no say and no voice and no power. But Jesus now offers her new life, new hope, a new future, a full place in society. When Jesus was her age, he was in the Temple. Now she is walking with her God.

In the middle of the story of Jairus’s daughter, Christ uses the word daughter to describe a woman who has no man to speak up for her, presumably a widow who has lost her money, her status and her place in society, lost being considered a Daughter of God along with the other children of God.

Good news for women?

Three years ago, at the annual conference of the Anglican mission agency USPG (the United Society Partners in the Gospel) in High Leigh, Hertfordshire, I heard powerful and engaging stories of how projects supported by USPG are empowering women from these islands to South Africa, from the West Indies and West Africa to India and Pakistan.

Canon Delene Mark, from the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, gave harrowing accounts of gender-based violence, people trafficking, child murder and forced prostitution, all being challenged by her group, Hope for Africa.

Sheba Sultan, from the Church of Pakistan, describing the varied lives of women in Pakistan, from tribal people with few resources and many restrictions, to the elite women who have lives of luxury but find cultural values also stop them from living life to the full.

She reminded us of the assassinated prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, who had said women in Pakistan cannot achieve anything without tackling bigotry and intolerance, and of the story of Malala Yousafzai, the activist for women’s education and the youngest-ever Nobel Peace laureate.

Anjun Anwar, a Muslim woman born in Pakistan, spoke way beyond her experiences on the staff of Blackburn Cathedral.

We heard in a Bible study with the Revd Dr Monodeep Daniel of the work of the Delhi Brotherhood in challenging gender-based violence, including rape and murder.

Deaconess Dr Rachele Evie Vernon spoke of women challenging injustice and violence in Jamaica and in Liberia.

The Revd Dr Miranda Threlfall-Holmes from Durham talked about gender justice, which is much wider than ending gender-based violence. She shared a vision of equality for men and women who are created equally in the image and likeness of God, who are made one in Christ, who are called and equipped by the Holy Spirit, and who live with the promise of abundant life for all.

Canon Andi Hofbauer of Wakefield Cathedral put careful thought and joy into the way she led us in worship each day.

We were challenged each day that week to ask ourselves: how is the Gospel good news for women?

Speaker after speaker insisted it is only Good News – but only if we read it, accept its consequences for us, and then live it out.

These stories came in the same week that we celebrated Saint Mary Magdalene [22 July], the first witness to the Resurrection, and in the week Rachel Treweek was being consecrated Bishop of Gloucester in Canterbury Cathedral.

The Gospel is Good News for the two women in our Gospel reading next Sunday: they are at opposite ends of the scale in terms of both social status and age. Yet one does not come before the other. Christ has equal compassion for both, and restores them to full life, physically, spiritually and socially, despite objections from men on the scene – the privileged men who have access to the house of Jairus, or the men around Christ who find that a poor, old sick woman is embarrassing.

The Gospel is Good News for women like these two women. But only if we read it and then put it into practice.

Mark 5: 21-43:

21 When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered round him; and he was by the lake. 22 Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet 23 and begged him repeatedly, ‘My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.’ 24 So he went with him.

And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. 25 Now there was a woman who had been suffering from haemorrhages for twelve years. 26 She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. 27 She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 for she said, ‘If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.’ 29 Immediately her haemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30 Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, ‘Who touched my clothes?’ 31 And his disciples said to him, ‘You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, “Who touched me?” ’ 32 He looked all round to see who had done it. 33 But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.’

35 While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, ‘Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?’ 36 But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, ‘Do not fear, only believe.’ 37 He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. 38 When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. 39 When he had entered, he said to them, ‘Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.’ 40 And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41 He took her by the hand and said to her, ‘Talitha cum’, which means, ‘Little girl, get up!’ 42 And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. 43 He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

‘Christ raises the daughter of Jairus’ (left), in the Hardman window by JH Powell at the west end of the nave in Saint Nicholas Church, Adare, Co Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Liturgical resources:

Liturgical Colour: Green

The Collect of the Day:

Almighty and everlasting God,
by whose Spirit the whole body of the Church
is governed and sanctified:
Hear our prayer which we offer for all your faithful people,
that in their vocation and ministry
they may serve you in holiness and truth
to the glory of your name;
through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

The Post-Communion Prayer:

Holy and blessed God,
as you give us the body and blood of your Son,
guide us with your Holy Spirit,
that we may honour you not only with our lips
but also with our lives;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Suggested hymns:

The hymns suggested for the Fifth Sunday after Trinity in Sing to the Word (2000), edited by Bishop Edward Darling, include:

II Samuel 1: 1, 17-27:

592, O Love that wilt not let me go

Psalm 130:

564, Deus meus adiuva me (O my God, in help draw near)
620, O Lord, hear my prayer
9, There’s a wideness in God’s mercy
627, What a friend we have in Jesus

Wisdom 1: 13-15; 2: 23-24:

425, Jesus, thou joy of loving hearts
49, Lord, bring the day to pass
59, New every morning is the love

Psalm 30:

554, Lord Jesus, think on me
592, O Love that wilt not let me go
196, O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness
528, The Church’s one foundation

II Corinthians 8: 7-15:

352, Give thanks with a grateful heart
168, Lord, you were rich beyond all splendour
177, Once in royal David’s city (verses 1, 2, 6)
114, Thou didst leave thy throne and thy kingly crown

Mark 5: 21-43:

511, Father of mercy, God of consolation
455, Go forth for God, go forth to the world in peace
211, Immortal love for ever full
513, O Christ, the healer, we have come
104, O for a thousand tongues to sing

The Mayer window in Saint Nicholas Church, Adare, Co Limerick, depicting the three virtues (from left): Faith, Charity and Hope (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA, and are used by permission. All rights reserved.

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