Fifth Sunday After Pentecost Study

5TH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST   06-27-2021

FIRST READING:   Lamentations 3:22-33

The book of Lamentations is an extended lament related to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonian army in 587B.C.  Babylonian army in 587B.C.  That mighty city had been surrounded by the Babylonians and was under siege for 18 months… and it would soon be lost or had already been lost. Many of the Jewish people living outside the city had been captured or killed. Inside the city, it was just as bad… disease and starvation claimed many more lives… it was so bad that starving mothers were eating their own children. There was much weeping and wailing… much despair and little hope.

The poet understood, accepted, and readily confessed that the people were guilty of sin and deserved all this punishment that had come to them… the poet understood, accepted, and readily confessed that God is just in whatever God has done, whatever God has allowed to happen. But the poet nevertheless seeks to trust that God will still have mercy in the midst of all the destruction and disaster… that God will perhaps deliver his people, this city, and the nation. In today’s verses, taken from the middle of the book, the poet says – perhaps with confidence, but more likely with desperate hope – “For the Lord will not reject forever. Although he causes grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love…”  (3:31-32)

Have you ever been so full of grief, so desperate, at the edge of despair and wondered “What if God’s steadfast love DOES NOT endure forever? What if God has truly given up on me, on us?”  What  kept you from completely giving up at that time? What kept you from wallowing in self-pity?

What does true repentance look like? What does persevering trust look like? As a Christian, in the midst of my terror, in the midst of my despair, can I find in JESUS CHRIST something to hang onto, someone to believe in? CAN I? 

PSALM:   Psalm 30

This is the song of a person who has loved God and trusted God, who has worshiped God and served God, who has personally experienced God’s saving action in the past. This is not the story of a person who has turned his or her back on God. But here’s the problem. The psalm writer or singer had become comfortable with all of God’s blessings. The psalmist had felt so safe and secure and satisfied with good health and material wealth… the psalmist had trusted in prosperity, had depended on good times and the good life, had gotten used to being “up” rather than “down”. It’s almost as if the blessings had replaced God. It’s almost as if faith in God had rested on everything going well in my life. Maybe you know all about this…maybe you’ve been there in your life.

The writer of Psalm 30 says in verse 30: “O LORD, when you favored me, you made my mountain stand firm; but when you hid your face, I was dismayed.”

Isn’t that all it takes sometimes for our faith to falter – hard times, a difficult moment, some sort of crisis, a challenge, a setback, an illness of our own or of a loved one, a broken relationship, our house burns down, I lost my job, etc. – and then it becomes

WHERE IS GOD? 

WHY HAS GOD ABANDONED ME? 

WHAT HAVE I DONE TO DESERVE THIS? 

The writer of Psalm 30 certainly admits to his terror when he felt that God was absent from his life. No doubt you and I have been there… might be feeling that way right now. But can we, like the psalmist, also come to a point where we understand that transient pain, momentary struggle, present suffering is always answered by God’s ETERNAL grace?  Verse 5 says: “For God’s anger only lasts for a moment, but God’s favor lasts for a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”  Friend, if it’s the midnight hour in your life, hold on, don’t give in, don’t give up! Even if the night seems too long, and it’s like 3AM and still no light, hold on, don’t give up! The Lord – I want to assure you – is with you… EVEN THROUGH THE NIGHT!

SECOND READING:   2 Corinthians 8:7-15

(In much of 2 Corinthians, Paul is trying to defend his ministry against critics who are questioning his integrity, his motives, and his fitness for ministry. And it must have hurt Paul that the Corinthian Christians, a congregation that Paul helped to start several years before, didn’t really rally to his support. But the opposition and disappointment he encountered did not prevent him from trying to share the dynamic truth and saving power of Jesus Christ!)

In today’s reading the missionary Paul is urging the Christians in Corinth to finish their collection of funds for the poor Christians who are struggling back in Jerusalem. There are a number of dynamics going on here. One is the simple fact that the Christians in Jerusalem are not as materially blessed as some of the Christians in Corinth… the Christians in Jerusalem are poor, and there are hunger and survival issues…some of which may be related to struggles with persecution by Jewish Temple authorities and the Roman government. So the collection will address some very real economic needs, reaching out to help those who perhaps hadn’t had the resources or the opportunity to scatter out of the city when others left. Second, we want to note that GENTILE Christians are being asked by Paul to reach out a helping hand to JEWISH Christians who aren’t even sure that they want to welcome and accept the Gentiles as their Christian brothers and sisters. Paul is trusting that this collection will help foster reconciliation and reinforce unity between the two groups, who “in the world” are often opposed to one another, full of prejudice and hate.

And there is a third dynamic at work here. Paul’s chief concern seems to be the Corinthians’ faith, something more vital than economic assistance or even reconciliation between Gentile and Jewish Christians. He calls this “a test of the genuineness of their love” (verse 8).  He wants this congregation – which he founded and now is writing back to – to be as full of grace, as self-emptying and sacrificial, as loving and as giving, AS CHRIST.

Note that Paul does not command that they give – he challenges them to give out of love. He does not demand a specific amount – he seeks a generosity from grateful hearts. For the Christians in Corinth, here at St. Peter’s, and all over, giving is more than a financial exercise – it is an act of love in response to Christ’s giving of self. OUR call and mission at St. Peter’s is this: Be Christ to others. Touch someone who needs it. Reach out to help restore those who suffer in body, mind, or spirit. Extend your arms wide in compassion and concern and true community. Do it with courage, do it with commitment, do it with love. 

GOSPEL READING:  Mark 5:21-43

Jairus, a respected leader in the synagogue, exhibited great and desperate trust in Jesus’ ability to heal his dying daughter. Then, when she was reported as having already died, he was urged by the words of Jesus, “Do not fear, only believe.” (verse 36) Jesus brings restoration to life, showing his power over death! When have you experienced new life in a hopeless situation? There is healing power in the presence and love of Jesus!

There is another story within that story. On the way to the home of Jairus, a hemorrhaging woman, desperate and courageous, reached out to touch the clothes Jesus is wearing. She had been bleeding for twelve years… she had spent all of her money, without any relief, on many doctors… her last hope, she thought, was Jesus. The woman finds healing by touching his clothes! There is healing power in the presence and love of Jesus!

The “dead girl” should not have been touched. Numbers 19 tells us that this would make the person who touches her unclean and unrighteous, polluted. The “bleeding woman” should not have been touched. Leviticus 15      tells us that contact with her would make that person unclean and unrighteous, polluted. Everybody would have known that and believed that. But not Jesus! Jesus was a barrier breaker, willing to cross a boundary, willing to break a law, not afraid to reach out in order to affirm, in order to heal, to embrace the rejected and to exalt the humiliated and to restore the “unclean” to community. He understood the world differently. He looked at people differently. He had the eyes and the heart of God. Will we?

Always you pray that the Church, and this congregation, will be a welcome community, a place of love where nobody is defined as an outsider, no one is simply left out or easily thrown out, condemned, and rejected.

Upcoming Events

Jun
19
Wed
2024
10:30 am Whole Foods Distribution
Whole Foods Distribution
Jun 19 @ 10:30 am – 12:00 pm
Whole Foods Distribution Use entrance on Briar Rd. to access the lower classroom area. Need more information? Check out this event’s ministry page.
Jun
23
Sun
2024
10:00 am Sunday Worship Service
Sunday Worship Service
Jun 23 @ 10:00 am – 11:00 am
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we will be gathering together for worship service on Zoom using the following information: MEETING ID: 5977365682 MEETING PASSWORD: 204934 You can also join us for...
Jun
30
Sun
2024
10:00 am Sunday Worship Service
Sunday Worship Service
Jun 30 @ 10:00 am – 11:00 am
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we will be gathering together for worship service on Zoom using the following information: MEETING ID: 5977365682 MEETING PASSWORD: 204934 You can also join us for...
Jul
3
Wed
2024
10:30 am Whole Foods Distribution
Whole Foods Distribution
Jul 3 @ 10:30 am – 12:00 pm
Whole Foods Distribution Use entrance on Briar Rd. to access the lower classroom area. Need more information? Check out this event’s ministry page.
Jul
5
Fri
2024
8:30 am Senior Food Box Distribution @ St. Peter's Rhoda Hall
Senior Food Box Distribution @ St. Peter's Rhoda Hall
Jul 5 @ 8:30 am – 10:00 am
Check out the Senior Food Program’s page for more information.