... Ecclesiastes 2:26 ...
Cast your bread upon the waters,
for you will find it after many days.

Pentecost 5 Year B
Message June 28th, 2015

The Face of Reconciliation

Text: 2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27; Psalm 130; 2 Corinthians 8:7-15; Mark 5: 21-43

On the surface the four readings for today do not seem to have much in common. In fact the introduction in one of the lectionary commentaries suggests that the four readings for today move in different directions entirely from one another such that to try and find a common thread would stretch the congregation’s imagination beyond credulity. However, I disagree! Often times finding a point of commonality is dependent on one’s perspective: just try some of the mind game books and finding which number or figure is next in a series. Today’s readings, if looked at by the stories themselves, do not have a common thread. But looked at from the point of view of reconciliation as we dealt with last week, the common thread becomes a hawser. For those non-nautical people a hawser to a thread is like a baseball bat to a toothpick. Thus in light of reconciliation the readings now become a window on what reconciliation looks like in the real work of human-human and human-divine relationships.

You will recall that last week we looked at the 5 basic steps to reconciliation, and one of those steps was forgiveness and acceptance of forgiveness. Well in many situations the debate surrounding forgiveness and reconciliation is similar to the topic of “which comes first; the chicken or the egg?” The reality being that the two are so closely connected to be often times indistinguishable. A child does something wrong and the parent punishes, but then says the child is forgiven. Does the forgiveness come before the reconciliation, or is it that reconciliation has already been in place in the form of love and so forgiveness is granted? This might be the premise of the psalm we hear today! So let us look at the readings in light of reconciliation.

In the story of David we have jumped from the concept of mutual recognition of a problem to David’s lamentation over Saul and Jonathan. What we fail to see or hear are the intervening years between David’s defeat of Goliath and when David becomes king. Once Saul found out that David would be the next king he was enraged and sought to kill David. David and Saul’s son Jonathan were the best of friends but yet Jonathan stuck by his father. The animosity between David and Saul was never resolved. Yet in death David becomes reconciled, penning a lament which dwells on the wonderful characteristics and attributes of both Saul and Jonathan. Any mention of the past hardships are wiped away by the expressions of love and unity.

Jumping ahead to the Corinthians reading, one might be excused from missing the point about reconciliation as this passage has been too often used as a sermon for Stewardship Sunday or when beginning a financial drive for any host of good missions or projects. However in the context of the preceding chapters we need to hear what Paul is recommending in light of reconciliation. Last week out of chapter 6 we heard how Paul urged the Christian church at Corinth to see how they had been reconciled to God in Christ and thence to one another. In that mutuality of reconciliation Paul points out the unity which ought to underlie all their words actions and deeds, and how he himself has been consoled by the basic tenets of their faith and their desires to live Christ-like lives. He even ends Chapter 7 with “I rejoice, because I have complete confidence in you.” From this juncture Paul mentions the work that the Church in Corinth had previously desired to do and he encourages them to continue to complete it. That work had to do with supporting financially the poor Christians in Jerusalem.

For Paul this endeavour was not what we would understand as a “fund-raising activity” or for that matter a “missionary stewardship campaign!” It was an act of gratitude as a consequence of being reconciled to God in and through Christ Jesus. Paul’s argument goes like this: If one is reconciled to God in Christ and someone else is also reconciled to God in Christ, then those two are ‘ipso facto’ reconciled to one another and are thus in unity and amity. And what is seen in two is also seen in the many. Paul goes on to state that this reconciliation is a show of God’s love working in the lives of all those reconciled and that actions emanating from that love are the real display of reconciliation. Thus the collection from Corinth for Jerusalem was a sign of love reconciliation and a re-balancing of previous imbalances – a point discussed in last week’s sermon.

As for the healing miracles of Jesus we can accept them on the level of healings, on the level of showing who Jesus is or the level of setting the stage of why Jesus was to be crucified. However, too much rides on Mark’s sandwich accounts of healings to allow us to rest without digging deeper. Why do we have a high ranking synagogue leader and an outcast woman in the same story line? What is it about raising a dead girl and a healing from heavy periods that we are directed to see? Is it just about having faith beyond logic, trust beyond senses or truth beyond knowledge? Again coming from the vantage point of reconciliation we see a deeper meaning and that meaning has to do with God’s story of reconciling Israel and by extension humanity through Jesus.

We are reminded time and time again that Jesus equated healing with forgiveness; that to be forgiven one’s sins was tantamount to being healed and that wrapped up in that forgiveness was the faith of the person or the community. Today’s readings show the faith of the father and the faith of the woman. Both saw in Jesus the power of God. And above this we are to see how the reconciling action of God was for all the nation from the leaders to the outcasts. It was an inclusive action on God’s part to show what reconciliation accomplishes. It is not to be taken as a test-ruler, regarding faith healing or a measure of one’s faith as has so often been done in Christian history and even in this day and age.

Yet it is in reconciliation that we can hope and that we can trust in God’s overall plan. It is that hope and trust which spurred the psalmist. While the psalm might sound like a cry for help or a plea to be forgiven, the very opening of the psalm counters this. It is a desire only to be heard. The author seems to take as a given that God has already forgiven, has already put salvation into play and that healing has already been granted. As we hear the closing words of the psalm we realize that the author admits to sins and to iniquities, but also trusts in the Lord and knows that with the Lord there is steadfast love – a love which will redeem and which will reconcile. Such an understanding can only be experienced by one who has had the indwelling of the Spirit of the Lord in his or her life.

And each of us is so included because by our baptism we have come to have the Spirit in us and for us. Remember that Baptism is only an outward visible sign of an inward invisible Grace. That Grace is the reconciling action of God in our lives. It does not protect us against sin nor does it stop us from sinning. However, it gives us a way forward. It opens a pathway which leads to reconciliation. It enables us to see our faults to be open to ways of reparation to experience forgiveness and to imagine unity and a life together in Christ Jesus.

[By the faith of the community we baptize Gracie Charlotte Gray this morning that the outward visible sign might be the witness to God’s invisible Grace working in her life and the commencement of her journey in reconciliation.]