Bible Study: Proper 8 (B) – July 1, 2012

Discussion Leader: Robert Berra, Berkeley Divinity School at Yale

“He took her by the hand and said to her, ‘Talitha cum,’ which means, ‘Little girl, get up!’ And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement.” (Mark 5: 38-40)

The Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) readings:
2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27 and Psalm 130 (or Wisdom of Solomon 1:13-15; 2:23-24
and Lamentations 3:21-33 or Psalm 30); 2 Corinthians 8:7-15; Mark 5:21-43

 

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

The five verses of the lection (out of a range of two chapters – forty verses!) are a distillation of the author’s answer as to why there is good and evil, and why we should choose the good. God created all there is; and because of God’s goodness, the essence of creation mirrors this goodness. It is this goodness for which we were created. The author constructs a dualism, considering evil to be a creation of the devil, who leads people to death. The author is putting a choice before us: support the creative good work of God, or choose to deal in the death of God’s creative work.

For the author, we are not dealing with an abstract choice that will affect us when the mortal body dies, but a choice that has concrete consequences in the here and now. The unrighteous, by not understanding the good ends of creation, see life as short and meaningless. A vision of scarcity and selfishness pervades as the unrighteous try to provide for their own happiness at the expense of others (see 2:6-11) in spite of the example of the righteous who take a long and nurturing view of human life and honor all God has made.

How does your view of death affect your way of life?

Psalm 30

Psalm 30 is a song of thanksgiving – one person’s testimony to God’s goodness after a nearly fatal (probably) physical illness. The psalm is an emotional rollercoaster with highs and lows: praise, thanks, arrogance, desertion, pain, desperation, bargaining, mourning, joy and gratitude. With such a wide range of emotions and the somewhat non-specific nature of the trouble the psalmist faced, it is easy to see that this psalm can speak to a wide range of people. It speaks to those of us who have had the time to reflect on hardships and can join in praising God. It also speaks to those of us who are still “weeping in the night,” and waiting for the joy that comes in the morning – and hoping that joy will come.

In reading this psalm, what emotions are you feeling? Why are you feeling those particular emotions?

Is there a story of a time in your life that led you to gratitude and thanksgiving for God’s work in your life?

2 Corinthians 8:7-15 

Stepping away from the particular circumstances of the letter, we can see Paul developing a theology of giving based on the desire to do good and in imitation of Christ. For Paul, there is no great separation between faith and good works; the two are linked. Paul expects that the Corinthians would be willing to give without Paul coercing them. He is asking them to show that the love they profess for others are not empty words, but are followed with the desire to give to the material benefit of the poor. Paul implies that a maturing faith will show that the desire to give will grow and flourish naturally, without his compulsion, and that the Corinthians who (he says) excel in faith, speech, knowledge, in eagerness and love, will show their mature faith in charity. In doing so, the Corinthians will imitate Christ who became poor the sake of others. Knowing that people get tied down by asking, “How much is enough?” or grumbling about “giving everything away,” Paul writes that we seek not that the poor simply become rich and the rich become poor, but for the alleviation of need and a fair balance of necessities. Instead of a begrudging charity, Paul envisions a church trying to enact the kingdom of God, which is not bound to rules of scarcity or the logic of determining winners and losers.

How does faith play into your providing for the necessities of others?

Mark 5:21-43

The story of the healing of the hemorrhaging woman is nestled in the story of Jesus raising Jairus’ daughter. The differences in situation in these two healings are stark. Jairus is wealthy, well-connected and a religious leader. He comes to Jesus to request help for his daughter, and Jesus follows. The woman is ill, impoverished, ritually unclean and therefore separated from society. Both Jairus and the woman show faith in Jesus; but the woman shows a well-placed audaciousness that Jairus does not. This may be the difference in the social status of Jairus and the woman. Jairus’ position comes with respect and openness in how he moves in society. The woman seems to act in desperation, a clandestine attempt to be healed before she is found out and removed from the scene.

In these connected stories, we learn something of Jesus and his reordering of societal priorities. Jesus stopped a crowd to establish a relationship to a long-time ritually unclean woman (nowhere near a high social standing) who had touched him. He calls her “daughter” in the presence of established religious authorities of the day. He restores her to health and to community in spite of an interaction that would be considered scandalous. In the case of Jairus’ daughter, he again heals a ritually unclean woman with a touch. In these stories, we are shown that the priorities of Jesus are not the same as the world’s, and that he is willing to transgress worldly boundaries to bring about the good of those who seek him.

Healing may mean something different from being cured of an ailment. How have you experienced healing in your life?

What societal boundaries are you willing to cross when you can aid others in healing?

Speak Your Mind

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