O Lord, give us ...
Rev. Ken Boccino Sermon for Pentecost 5, June 27, 2021
O Lord, give us wise, patient, understanding, devout, faithful, and courageous hearts. Fill our souls with devotion to your service in faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Good Morning and Happy Belated Father's Day! I'm sorry that I was not be able to be here for service last week, but I was on a bit of a Father's Day 'adventure' spending time with my family down in Virginia. I will touch upon that a little later in the sermon as the reason we were down there ties beautifully into the messages in today's readings - for which I'm so glad. This is a story I very much want to share. But before I move into storytelling, I would like to touch on today's readings.
While I was hoping for one of those Sunday's where the readings fit together nicely with a prominent theme running through the Old Testament, Epistle and Gospel readings - these readings is not one of those times. However, I'm very thankful that this excerpt taken from Paul from 2nd Corinthians does not require a Thomas Cranmer secret decoder ring. Thomas Cranmer was theologian and a leader of the English Reformation in the Church of England's spilt from the Roman Catholic church.
In our Old Testament reading, not yet King David returns from battle and hears of the death of King Saul and Saul's son Jonathan. These verses are a very moving lamentation where he expresses his heartfelt grief. Saul was courageous and generous king, but like many of the kings before and after him did not always obey God's commands. However, Saul did play a major role in Israel's history and in David's own life and was also his father-in-law. David followed Saul to become king over all Israel.
In today's reading from Paul's Epistles, he is writing to the people of Church in Corinth. As we can see in the first verse in this section, that Paul appears to be pleased with the actions his sisters and brothers are taking to grow in their faith. He acknowledged that they are 'excelling' in a number of virtuous practices - faith, speech and eagerness. As they grown both individually and as a community, Paul wants to ensure that they also grown in one other way - in generosity. He urges them to continue to be industrious and finish out the work that they all set out to do in terms of their commitment as followers of Jesus Christ, but also in their daily work and routine to be able to provide for themselves to carry out their spiritual tasks. In addition to caring for themselves, Paul also encourages (and distinctly calls out that he did not "command" them) the faithful in Corinth to be generous to those in the community who may be in need. He circles this back to the ultimate generosity of our Savior who had so much to give and essentially gave it all away by dying for us on the Cross. One who was so rich gave up everything for you and me. While Paul did not ask the people in Corinth to give up everything, he did ask that there be a "fair balance" in giving and receiving.
Finally we have another "loaded" gospel where 2 separate (and possible unrelated) stories are brought together into what seems to be a single story. Jesus is teaching near the Sea of Galilee when Jairus, a leader from the local synagogue pleads with Jesus to come heal his dying daughter.
Jesus agrees and the crowds follow him to Jairus' house. On the way someone from the household comes and informs Jairus that his daughter has passed. Jesus sets to continue on and when he arrives asks why the household is fretting - and he says that she is only sleeping. The crowd taunts Jesus and laughs at him.
Jesus sets everyone outside and enters the house with the family and 4 of his disciples. He orders the child to get up and she immediately begins to walk around.
Between the beginning and end of the story of Jairus' daughter is the story of the hemorrhaging woman. She has been ill for 12 years and no doctor could cure her. She strongly felt that if she did so much as to touch Jesus' clothes, she would be healed, so she does just that. Jesus has sensed that something has happened and asks out to the crowd to see who touched his clothes. The woman, in utter fear, admits to doing so. Jesus says to her that she is cured and to go in peace.
The 2 themes running through today's Gospel I believe are clearly laid out for us today (thank you Paul and Mark). Generosity and Faith. While I can't be sure why these are brought together on this particular Sunday - they are both practices that Jesus taught about and followed during his short ministry on earth and based on that, I believe that he calls us to do the same.
I'm giving thanks to God this morning for weaving these 2 themes together in today's reading as they both relate directly to my Father's Day "adventure" last week in Virginia and for me, there are so few times where there are live experiences that clearly demonstrate the messages we find in Holy Scripture. Please note that this is not a story of an epiphany or a recount of some cathartic or live changing event, but I believe it does demonstrate how through both by being generous and believing through faith how God can manifest God's self in our daily lives in situations that may not always seem optimal or desired. Thank you for letting me share this & I do hope that might resonate with you as well.
So here we go. The story really revolves around my 2 children and another young man. For those who don't know. I have 2 young adult children - Joshua and Alaina. Joshua is 25 and lives in Virginia and Alaina who will be 23 next month and lives at home (for the most part). Weekends she is usually down in South Jersey spending time with her boyfriend, Chris and his family. Enter stage left our 3rd character - Chris.
Josh lives in an apartment in Ashland, VA and works for an engineering company doing project work. It just so happens that he lives in a 2 bedroom apartment by himself (this is a useful piece of information). He was hoping room with a good friend, but then pandemic, jobs, etc., etc., so he lives solo and really has grown very accustomed to it. Who wouldn't?
The best way to explain Josh's and Alaina's relationship is that they co-exist and this has been pretty much the case through middle school. It's not that they dislike each other, but they both feel that they don't have much in common, have different interests and travel in different social circles. I have to admit I was the same with my brothers & I'm very glad we grew out of that. This is also helpful in the context of the story.
Chris just graduated college this year has not been easy. His Mom recently passed and he lost his Dad 4 years ago. His grandparents are looking after him and he has a big family who love and look after each other - in that respect he is very fortunate. He recently got a job in Washington DC in his field of study (something to definitely celebrate - especially this year) and will have to relocate. He starts work in 3 weeks.
Not sure if any of you are starting to put the pieces together, so permit me to continue. We have someone with a new job who needs a place live in the DC area and we have someone else with an extra bedroom. And the plot thickens.
We all (well most of us) agreed that it made sense if Chris could move into the spare bedroom (for an interim period) while he got settled into the new job, built up some savings and determine whether or not he liked this job before committing to any long-term living arrangements. As I mentioned, it seemed like a great idea to everyone - except for the current occupant of the apartment in Ashburn. There was some attempt at rationalization such as having a lot of stuff that needs to be moved out of the room, just getting into a routine that was working out, not knowing this person too well amongst others. Did I also mention that his parents are now kicking in for the 'non second roommate'.
We asked Josh to take some time to thing about it - not that it was going to change anything, but we were hoping that some time and reflection might change is 'outlook' on the whole situation and that it might be good to consider this as we all felt Chris could use a break. That was about 3 weeks ago.
Fast forward to last week. The plans were for us to spend the weekend with Josh and then Alaina and Chris would come down on Sunday so he and Josh could meet and he could check out the apartment and we would all go out for an early dinner.
While Nerissa and I expected that Josh would still have all these reservations that we needed to talk through - to our surprise, Alaina had called Josh the week before and had a very long conversation where apparently they worked everything through. I assume that he got most of his questions answered and concerns addressed. He accepted it and pretty much just needed time with Chris to setup some an understanding of how things would be moving forward.
They seem to hit it off and what's even better is that they both golf, follow stocks and enjoy learning about krypto-currency. Who would have thought.
So as it stands now, Josh and Chris have exchanged phone numbers and talking things through for when he moves in on July 10th.
For me, it's a touching story with a happy ending and thank you for letting me share this family experience.
And finally, how does this relate to today's readings. Through generosity were are able to offer Chris a place to stay so he can have a better transition into his new dream job and having the time to adjust to a new area and finding a place to live. Through our faith and "Let go and Let God" our kids had one of their first serious "big people" conversations on their own - something which I consider a major breakthrough and setting a potential strong foundation for the future. We did not force that conversation - we hoped it would happen on its own. The kids, having the faith that this is all going to work out, despite some reservations is the Spirit working amongst us all into what has the promise to be a favorable outcome for us all.
Somewhat like we see the woman and Jairus in Mark's Gospel, neither were sure about what was going to happen with their interactions with Jesus. The old woman fearful and unsure took the leap of faith and touched Jesus' clothing. Her faith healed her. Jairus, desperate to save his little girl, approaches Jesus in a crowd and pleads for him to save her. And the response of the crowd when Jesus said she was asleep - laughter, but not Jairus.
In closing, I'd like to reflect on what I took away from the readings today and my Father's Day adventure last week.
• Don't push your kids too far - they'll come around
• Have faith in your kids
But more important
• Don't push God or the Holy Spirit
• Have faith in God and the Holy Spirit
My friends, as Jesus said to Jairus after hearing the news of his daughter's death - "Do not fear, only believe." I truly believe that applies to us as well.
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George C. Wong
is the Rector