6.24.2009

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Proper 8), Year B

2 Samuel 1.1, 17-27
Psalm 130
2 Corinthians 8.7-15
Mark 5.21-43

In a wonderful book titled All Our Losses, All Our Griefs, Kenneth Mitchell and Herbert Anderson work with this basic premise: All change is loss. All losses must be mourned.

All change is loss.

All losses must be mourned.

We can experience relational losses, functional losses, material losses, intrapsychic losses (losing images of one's self or losing future possibilities), role losses, and systemic losses (someone changes offices or a family member moves out of the house or a person leaves an important position in a church). Losses can be both avoidable and unavoidable. We can lose things that were important to us and we can loose things that were painful to us. Whether we liked them or not, when something changes a hole is created.

All losses must be acknowledged and mourned.

This week's lectionary readings show folks being confronted with and processing (mourning) different kinds of change in their lives.

The text from 2 Samuel is the beginning of a new chapter in the history of Israel. David is receiving word of Saul's death. This military defeat is seen as a defeat of the God of Israel -- David had respected Saul as "the Lord's anointed." Upon word of his death, David lashes out and has the messenger killed. Then he "intoned this lamentation" -- he sang a song of mourning and lament. He praised Saul and his son and called the Israelites to mourning. He pours out his own pain and anguish. If you read past the selected text, David then goes on to seek the Lord's wisdom for his next act, and after he is anointed king, he praises the community that had collected Saul's body and respected it with burial.

Psalm 130 is also a lament. The Israelites understood deep within their culture the importance of looking at their grief, speaking to it, naming it and laying it before God. In their laments, there is also hope. They look forward to a return to normal - not a normal that was, but a new normal that will be.

From the Gospel of Mark, we have intertwined tales of 2 miracles. Jesus has just gotten off the boat in which he calmed the stormy sea, and he's almost immediately approached by Jairus, who is beside himself because his daughter is dying. He has sought out Jesus because he believes that this man can do something. Imagine the scene - Jesus agrees to walk along with this man. Jesus is attracting crowds and people are curious about the rumors they are hearing. It would seem by now that there might be sort of a non-stop stream of miracle seekers stalking Jesus. As the crowd follows along, a woman reaches out in desperacy and touches his garment. And in a moment, she is cured of a lifelong bleeding problem and Jesus is somehow aware that healing power has just gone out from him. He speaks briefly to to woman, and assures her that it is her faith that has made her well (can you imagine?....what would you have left to talk / complain about if a pain you had known all your life was suddenly gone?). He then proceeds to Jairus' house, where the gathered are already in mourning for a dead girl. But Jesus shocks them all, sends them away and gathers the girl's parents to her side. "Wake up, little girl." And she wakes. Now these are stories not about seeming loss, but about restoration and gain. But how quickly everyone's circumstances changed. Things that people were living with - that they thought they knew - were changed, and all of them left the scene having to integrate these changes in to their lives.

Finally, in Paul's second letter to the church and Corinth, he is appealing to the community for money, a collection, to help the "poor." It's actually a stewardship Sunday speech that he's giving them, reminding them that Jesus humbled himself in death so that they can have life in abundance (grace). Out of that abundance, they can provide others with abundance in times of need. Not really about loss so much, right? Well, this letter was written late in Paul's ministry in the Mediterranean. That means that the early church is approaching a second generation of members past the death of Jesus. There are few left, if any, who would have known Jesus' teachings directly. What sort of loss do organizations experience when a leader goes away, dies, or changes? The epistles are largely Paul's counsel passed on to communities trying to find their way in changing circumstances. There are persecutions going on around them. There are false prophets claiming to have the next answer. There is the unfulfilled expectation of Jesus' return to set everything to rights. Change and loss are everywhere.

When something changes, a hole is created.

All losses must be acknowledged and mourned.

Where do you hide losses that you are unprepared to mourn?
How do you mourn? Who do you invite to mourn with you? Why?

Creator...I think sometimes that creation
is always about generation...
about new emerging from old or void.
And perhaps it is.
Perhaps new holes in my heart
are indeed new creation.
But it hurts
and you feel so far away.
Everything feels
so far away.
Help me find rest in this space
and time and emptiness.
Amen.

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