July 1, 2018

2018 July1

Proper 8- Year B

A Sermon Preached by The Rev. Ian M. Delinger

 

You may have noticed that the verse verses 2 to 16 from 2 Samuel are missing from today’s reading. You’ve heard of “Don’t shoot the messenger”? Well, in verses 2 to 16, that’s exactly what happens! The Amalekite comes to tell David that Saul and his sons are dead and to give David the crown and armlet of Saul, the symbols of kingship. David tells his servant to strike him down! After that, we hear of David’s sorrow.

 

Last week we heard of David befriending Jonathan, which occurred after David killed the Philistine Goliath, the most famous David story. What we missed, between then and now, is how David became Jonathan’s brother-in-law. Last week’s first reader, who shall remain nameless, was disappointed to discover that we would not hear the story of how Saul’s daughter Michal became wedded to David. In a secret plot to have David killed at the hands of the Philistines, Saul offered his daughter for a price. And David was able to slay and obtain the price of 100 Philistine foreskins...and Saul had to deliver on his promise of his daughter to David, and Michal became David’s first of 8 wives.

 

There is no mention of Michal’s mourning over the death of her father and brothers. This first chapter of 2 Samuel continues with David being crowned King of Judah. There’s some controversy, and then Michal is mentioned only as an object:

 

“Then David sent messengers to Saul’s son Ishbaal, saying, ‘Give me my wife Michal, to whom I became engaged at the price of one hundred foreskins of the Philistines.’”

 

That’s all the mention she gets. Then Abner and a couple of other people are killed, and David is crowned King over Israel as well as Judah.


The death of Saul and his sons was quite dramatic, in battle, and for Saul, self-inflicted when he realizes that he will be overtaken by the Philistines. David’s lament demands in the beginning that the death of Saul and his sons is not to be told to the Philistines, because then they will rejoice. The Old Testament is full of stories about Philistines or peoples of other nations or foreigners, which is one of the interpretations of the term “Philistine”. The Old Testament focuses on the Hebrews being God’s Chosen People by including numerous stories about the overthrow of other peoples, usually when the odds are against the Hebrews.

 

“Tell it not in Gath, proclaim it not in the streets of Ashkelon; or the daughters of the Philistines will rejoice, the daughters of the uncircumcised will exult.”

 

That is sort of a precursor to the “White Lives Matter” protest against the “Black Lives Matter” campaign. If there were to have been a “Philistine Lives Matter” campaign 3,000 years ago, David would have been the first person to reject it.

 

I mention “Black Lives Matter”, “White Lives Matter” and by inference “All Lives Matter” because our three readings today can speak to us about why these movements exist, why they are at odds with one another, and why we should care as Christians.

 

“Philistine Lives Matter” represents “Black Lives Matter”. The baseless killing of foreigners for their foreskins is senseless. Saul plotted against David by challenging him to violently interact with the Philistines, who were enemies of the Israelites. Because they are “other” or “foreign” or different, the Philistines, who occupy the Promised Land alongside the Israelites, are less than human.

 

David and the Israelites represent “White Lives Matter”, at least to David. But when we read what Paul has to say, and we witness Jesus’ actions, we see two things: that “All Lives Matter”, and that “Black Lives Matter” matters. Both Jesus and Paul give us a new way of living in community with those who are economically, racially, gendered, and privileged differently than ourselves.

 

Let’s turn to today. “Black Lives Matter” was sparked off in 2013 after the acquittal of George Zimmerman, a white police officer, in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, a black teenager. “All Lives Matter” was the response to “Black Lives Matter” to hopefully include a broader and more diverse base of Americans. “Blue Lives Matter” was the response to police killings. And “White Lives Matter” was the response of the white supremacists as a direct opposition to what “Black Lives Matter” represents. These movements and campaigns politicize the deaths and lives of whole groups of people, and they are very contentious and angry. One is right to ask oneself: How do I process this as a Christian?

 

A year-and-a-half ago, we brought those conversations into this very sanctuary. On All Souls’ Day, the day we remember those close to us who have died, we heard three perspectives on death, one on death of loved ones and two stemming from deaths that have been politicized. Many of us were able to identify with Hospice Chaplain Berkeley Johnson’s short homily on the death of loved ones; it’s a common bond we all share. What was more challenging to both hear and to process were the short homilies by the President of the Gay & Lesbian Association and of the police chief on the grief, anger, politics, senselessness and complexity of fatal attacks on minority communities and the retaliatory murders of police officers.

 

In today’s Gospel, we discover that Jesus believes that All Lives Matter. But…we only know that because Jesus illustrates that “Hemorrhaging Women’s Lives Matter”. It may seem a little odd to say that, but it’s true – it’s the meat in what’s called a Markan Sandwich: Mark often cuts one Jesus story in half by inserting another story before finishing the first story. In the middle of the bread that is Jairus’ Daughter is the recognition by Jesus that “Hemorrhaging Women’s Lives Matter”.

 

Of course, we already know by this time that Jesus believed that all lives matter. But

 

what Mark knew was that,
without believing that the
hemorrhaging woman’s life
mattered, as well, his readers
wouldn’t get to the point where
all lives matter.

 

If Mark had separated the two stories, we would have just heard that Jairus’ daughter’s life matters, only important people’s lives matter. Mark singled-out and included the marginalized – alongside the powerful – in order to illustrate that her life was just as important to Jesus as the daughter of one of the leaders in the synagogue. The lives – the spared deaths – of these two very different people were politicized.

 

The link is in Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians. Paul is advocating equity among the peoples. Those who have plenty are to share with those who have little so that all can rejoice and exult in community. But Paul is deliberately testing the genuineness of our love against the earnestness of others by suggesting equity. It is in disparity that tensions are born.

 

I heard a recent interview with one of the founders of the Black Lives Matter Movement, Patrisse Khan-Cullors. The interviewer asked her:

 

“But for those who…experience Black Lives Matter as being anti-white, what do you say?”

 

Her response was:

 

“It’s unequivocally not true. Black Lives Matter is really Black Lives Matter Too. It is not a phrase that is about excluding. It’s a phrase that is about focus. We are focusing on black people because time and time again, we become the subjects of neglect.”

 

So…Paul tells us to share what we have between us – let no one be the subject of neglect. If someone feels disenfranchised by a death, they most likely felt disenfranchised prior to the death. So the death becomes the icon and symbol for that disenfranchisement. Yet, “the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, [was] that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, so that by His poverty you might become rich.” We are to model that in our own communities.

 

And then in the Gospel, Mark makes the consequences of division and exclusion clear. There are those who have faith in Jesus as Divine and those who do not. Mark is always writing to establish the authority of Jesus to the community of hearers who are predominantly Jewish. Those who have no faith mock Jesus’ assertion that the girl is not dead but only asleep. Those who have faith can be healed, can be restored, are fully in God. Those without faith end up being shown the true power and authority of Jesus, and they are disgraced. This would not have bypassed the hearers of Mark’s Gospel in that community. Nor would the significance of the Hemorrhaging Woman.

 

  • She is unclean – scandal #1
  • and in public – scandal #2
  • and touches Jesus – scandal #3
  • who Himself is now unclean – scandal #4!

 

Mark then puts the unknown, unclean, unnamed woman at the same level of significance as the Leader of the Synagogue, establishing a degree of equity that would have been unheard of.

So, here is where today’s readings are very much like modern day times:

 

David mourned with parity.
Jesus healed with equity.

 

Jesus gives us a new way of being community, of being society. As St Paul says in Galatians, “We are all one in Christ Jesus.” David’s time was vastly different from the time of Jesus. He wasn’t actually a very nice man, but he did the will of God for God’s people. But we can learn through our critical lens rather than simply receive history as it is told to us.

 

In Jesus, every life is precious, All Lives Matter, whether that life belonged to Saul, Jonathan, Jairus’ Daughter, the Hemorrhaging Woman or indeed the Philistines. But Jesus also repeatedly casts down the mighty from their thrones, and lifts up the lowly in order to show us and remind us that other lives matter, too – lowly lives matter, too. Lifting up the lowly is not about excluding; it’s about focus, because time and time again, the lowly become the subjects of neglect. And when we avoid focusing on the lives of the lowly, even once in awhile:

 

  • when the only thing we know about Michal is that she became David’s first wife, purchased with the foreskins of 100 Philistines;
  • if we don’t remember the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for our sakes He became poor, so that by His poverty we might become rich;
  • if we were to separate the Markan Sandwich of the Hemorrhaging Woman from Jairus’ Daughter,

 

then we don’t really understand that All Lives Matter.

© 2018 St. Stephen's Episcopal Church
Connected Sound - Websites for the Barbershop Community