Fifth Sunday after Pentecost by The Rev. Dick Toll

Lessons:

Wisdom of Solomon 1:13-15; 2:23-24
Psalm 30

2 Corinthians 8:7-15
Mark 5:21-43

 

In our story from the Gospel today I would like us to look at that portion of the story with the 12-year girl.  We hear that the father of the girl is a leader at the synagogue and comes to Jesus because his daughter is dying and he wants to have Jesus come and lay hands on her for healing.

Jesus puts it off and as the story unfolds the girl apparently dies and the people see the coming of Jesus as too late to help her.  But, he goes anyhow.  And we are told that she recovers and lives again including being told to eat something.

I have often wondered about this story as to what learning’s took place and take place for us.  The words Jesus uses to address the young girl is “KUMI” which translates to “Rise up” “Rise up”.

This young 12-year girl began life at some point when she was born.  Someone, just like you and I, were patted on the rear end and we screamed out with our first breath.  We were alive and began breathing regularly.  It is the mystery we are all a part of…..life itself.  A gift given and received and the other mystery we live with is death.  At some point we will breathe our last breath and be beyond this world and we wonder about what the next stage of our being will be.  And it becomes the mystery that millions of books have been written about and religious beliefs develop.

But, back to our story.  We do not know the story of the 12-year girl.  Was she handicapped?  Was she able to talk about this experience later?  Did she take her last breath and die?  That is what the story tells us.  “KUMI”, rise up Jesus tells her.  Her eyes open.  Did she scream like when she was a baby?

What happened to her?  We do not know.  Did she live another 5, 10, 20, 40 years?  Did she have children of her own?  Did she repeat this story and give thanks for her new life?  Did she forget about it and get lost in the routine of everyday living…all this time breathing life…rising up each morning to face a new day.  Living until she died again.

How many times did she rise up over the years?  I know in my own experience I have had several near death experiences…car wrecks, accidents, and cramps while swimming, surgery.  The mystery of my life continues.  And the word “KUMI” came to me, “rise up” as an individual, as a culture, as a people, as a community, we are asked to “rise up” and live again.  At in all times and in all places, it is who we are. “Rise Up”.

Some of our learning to “rise up” and live can be transformative.  I knew a woman who at one time who had been abandoned on the streets off a country in South America.  She was five years old and her parents left her on a city corner and never returned for her.  She grew up in an orphanage and later became educated, married, and had a family of her own.  She came to visit us and we went to the Lloyd Center shopping.  Her six-year-old daughter disappeared, wandered off and was lost and found 20 minutes later.  But the mother had flashbacks of being abandoned and later had to receive treatments in the hospital to be able to “rise up” and live again.  I am sure many of us have memories of moments of learning the hard lessons of what it means to breathe and live and “rise up”.

One of my earliest memories of being raised in West Texas was the intense heat.  When I was very young we had no air-conditioning and the heat was often over 100 degrees.  I remember a Latino woman who took care of us as children when my mother worked.  She would put me down for a nap on the bare floor in the heat of the day and I can still remember the coolness of the floor that allowed me to go to sleep and “rise up” to play again.  As I was put on the floor, I can still remember her words, “pobrecito” “poor little one” in Spanish.

Each of us can turn to moments in time when we grew up.  It might have been a decision you made. It might have been a controversy or an argument won or an argument loss.

But something changed because of our learning in a moment of time.  The Latino woman that took care of our family when my mother was working had a son in the Korean War on an aircraft carrier.  She received word one day of his death when a plane crashed on a return flight.  She was grief stricken.  I was only 12 and knew little of what to say or do.  But, I had received a gift at Christmas of a $20 bill and put it at the bottom of her purse knowing she would find it someday and because she was needy I knew she could use it.  I never knew what happened to her in finding my anonymous gift.  I do know that I learned about the need to give beyond ones own self. 

When I was ordained here at Grace Memorial in 1968, Elaine and I made a commitment to tithe 10% of our income to the Church and organizations we wanted to support.  We have continued that for the 53 years of my priesthood.  “Rise Up”…life awaits you…what’s next?  How do I affect the future yet to unfold?  “KUMI” rise up.

This story has some bad history for me in my own time in the priesthood.  Forty-five years ago I had a woman in the hospital with a broken hip.  She had a group of faith healers come to her bed in the hospital and read this passage of scripture and they asked her to get out of bed and walk.  They told her she was healed.  She stepped out of bed, fell down and broke her other hip.  The saddest part of the story is that the prayer group blamed her for not having enough faith.  Four of the five doctors in the county were members of my church and were disturbed that religious people were allowed in the hospital to do such things.  Rise up was not the answer for her as the people wanted for her.  Healing needed to take time.

The young woman in the story today had a purpose for living.  We don’t know beyond this story what that purpose was but we can imagine she joined in a long line of people who were able to assist others in their own journey of life.

We are at a new moment of “KUMI” through out this nation and through out the world.  The pandemic is leaving us with many scars that will take time to heal from our isolation, our lack of family ties, our day-to-day routines.

We cannot remember our first breath or the cry we expressed as we came into the world.  But our breathing is life itself and to rise to new moments, to hear “KUMI” “rise up” to receive a new lease on life.  To look at yourself in the mirror and thank God for being here in God’s creation as a servant to others. 

“KUMI” “Rise Up”

Amen

Twenty-Fifth Sunday after Pentecost by The Rev. Phil Brochard

Nov. 11, 2018

Lessons:

1 Kings 17:8-16
Psalm 146
Hebrews 9:24-28
Mark 12:38-44

SOLACE IN OUR FIERCE LANDSCAPES

RIGHTEOUS APPEARANCES

GIVING WHAT YOU’LL NEVER MISS

A POOL IN THE DESERT

GIVE FOR LOVE

 

SOLACE IN OUR FIERCE LANDSCAPES

Near the turn of this century, the theologian Belden Lane wrote a provocative book called The Solace of Fierce Landscapes. In it he explored what he recognized to be the theology of desert and mountain landscapes, landscapes that are unsparing, wild, and fierce.

In his estimation, when we enter these landscapes, because of their danger and their sublime beauty, they teach us truths that we would otherwise choose to avoid.

This past week, yet again, has been a journey through fierce landscapes. We endured one of the most divisive election cycles in modern history. And, once more, we reeled from the senseless destruction of human life. 12 people killed with unfathomable precision.

And so we find ourselves in the wilderness yet again. We struggle to comprehend how a fellow human can enact such wanton cruelty. We struggle with the proliferation of guns solely created to killing humans as efficiently as possible. And we struggle to see how we will do this, see as a fundamental truth that we are in this together.

And in my home state of California, just within the past several days, horrific fires are burning faster than we had thought possible, leveling entire towns, taking the lives of those unable to flee fast enough.

This week has left many feeling lost in their own land, and I, for one, am grateful this morning to worship God in this place, coming together, seeking solace.

And I am grateful for the wisdom that emerges from the desert. Because in the end, Belden Lane writes, when we open ourselves to fierce landscapes, two questions emerge:

How much can you give?

How much can you love?

Again,

How much can you give?

How much can you love?

 

RIGHTEOUS APPEARANCES

Well this is a particularly uncomfortable Sunday to be wearing long robes and offering robust Eucharistic prayers, seated in a choice chair. Because that seems to be one of the threads running through our Gospel passage this morning–– the danger of appearing to be righteous.

It’s what Jesus says some of these scribes are doing, by wearing long robes of respectability, by the sitting in the seats reserved for those who know the Law best, by uttering long, impressive prayers. It’s not that these actions in or of themselves are at fault, but more that they can be used to cover practices of deceit.

These appearances mask the destruction of the widow, that iconic image of the vulnerable who is to be protected, but instead is systematically preyed upon until they are destitute. Beware disciples of the Christ! Surface appearances do not necessarily signal true righteousness. What does?

Being righteous, as Kathleen Norris, among others, reminds us, is consistently defined throughout scripture as being willing to care for the most vulnerable, the widow and orphan, the resident alien, the poor. It doesn’t matter what it looks like, the suit it wears, the status it holds, the power it commands. It asks those same questions,

How much does it give?

How much does it love?

 

GIVING WHAT YOU’LL NEVER MISS

To make his point clear Jesus turns our attention to money.

Funny thing about Jesus––he is not afraid to talk about money. Continuing this teaching about the appearance of a righteous life, he has his students watch as people put money into the temple treasury.

When you see rich people pouring in large sums, he says, it might appear that they are righteous. But then you might miss this widow. Now it’s likely that she is always overlooked, both figuratively and literally, I can’t imagine that her two pennies made much of a sound.

But if you judge a righteous life by appearances, you’ll miss a lot. And here’s where I appreciate the recently deceased biblical scholar Eugene Peterson. In contradistinction to the widow who gave her all, Peterson’s paraphrase reads that, “All the others gave what they’ll never miss” Gave what they’ll never miss.

How often have I done that? Given what I won’t miss? The scraps, the left-overs, the left behinds? Because of fear? Or protection? Security? Pretending that what I have is mine alone?

Maybe that’s why the tithe, or other proportional giving is so instructive. Because by nature of this spiritual discipline you know what you are doing, you can’t help but miss it.

When my wife Sarah and I began this practice of tithing I wasn’t sure at first. It wasn’t clear what this would mean for our student debt, or the little things––our nights out together, our cable. What I remember is the distinct feeling being able to trust that our money won’t own us. It’s not over, of course, I don’t know that it ever is. But year by year I have been taught that what I have–– my home, my money, my life itself, is not mine, but has been given to me that I and others might live.

 

A POOL IN THE DESERT

Belden Lane concludes his book on the solace of fierce landscapes with this ancient story of a community of monks living in the desert. For years the brothers chose one of their members to go into the city to beg. It was a difficult task, but one old monk took it on without complaint, enduring abuse in the city as he begged for the food and coins that the monks needed to survive.

But every trip was made more worse on his return to the monastery, as the afternoon sun beat down upon him and the burning sands met his every step. Marveling at the monk’s faith and endurance, God created a pool of cool water to refresh himself.

But the monk, thinking himself unworthy of this miracle, always passed by the well, stopping only to express his thanks and joy. Each night as he lay down to sleep, he’d look up through the window of his cell, and see a single bright star, giving thanks that God had placed it there for him to see.

After years of making this arduous trip into the city, as the monk was full of days, the brothers chose a younger monk to go with him to learn this task. They set off, and that day in the city the younger monk found it hard to persist in begging, accepting the abuse of some of the people of the city, and especially the grueling trek back under the harsh afternoon sun.

But then, on the horizon, the younger monk sighted a pool of cool water! He ran quickly to it, knelt down and began drinking deeply from the cool, clear water. As the the older monk passed the pool, he was torn. If he refused to drink the water, this miracle in the desert, he would have to tell the young monk why he did so. And it was likely that the young monk would feel ashamed of his impulsiveness and lack of devotion.

And, if the older monk did drink, he wouldn’t be able to offer to God the gift of sacrifice that he had been offering to God for so long. In the end, his heart remained with the young monk, so the old man ran back to the pool knelt down beside him and drank the cool, clear water, offering God glory for what had been given them.

But as they made their way home that evening, the old monk fell into a deep silence. He feared that he had disappointed God by what he had done. As he lay down to sleep that night, he looked through the small window of his cell, and this time saw the whole night sky lit by stars, just for him. His joy was overwhelming, too much to contain. He slept with the greatest peace, and his brothers found him dead in his bed the next morning.

And if they’d been able to hear the words on his lips that last fell from his lips, they would have heard the words of the prophet Hosea, that love is always better that sacrifice.

 

GIVE FOR LOVE

For we do not give simply out of sacrifice.

We give because we love. We give so that any child, regardless of their families’ income, can encounter art and beauty, trust and caring. We give so that for anyone who walks through these doors, the kingdom of God can be realized. We give so that one day on this block there will be space for the widow to be cared for. We give because we love.

You see, those two questions asked by the fierce landscapes of our lives are intrinsically and essentially connected,

How much can we give?

And,

How much can we love?

Try as we might, we cannot ask one without the other.