Teachable and Generous – 28 June 2015

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Rev’d Jonathan Gale 

2 Samuel 1: 1, 17 – 27

After the death of Saul, when David had returned from defeating the Amalekites, David remained two days in Ziklag. 17 David intoned this lamentation over Saul and his son Jonathan. 18(He ordered that The Song of the Bow be taught to the people of Judah; it is written in the Book of Jashar.) He said:
19 Your glory, O Israel, lies slain upon your high places!
How the mighty have fallen!
20 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.

21 You mountains of Gilboa,
let there be no dew or rain upon you,
nor bounteous fields!*
For there the shield of the mighty was defiled,
the shield of Saul, anointed with oil no more.

22 From the blood of the slain,
from the fat of the mighty,
the bow of Jonathan did not turn back,
nor the sword of Saul return empty.

23 Saul and Jonathan, beloved and lovely!
In life and in death they were not divided;
they were swifter than eagles,
they were stronger than lions.

24 O daughters of Israel, weep over Saul,
who clothed you with crimson, in luxury,
who put ornaments of gold on your apparel.

25 How the mighty have fallen
in the midst of the battle!

Jonathan lies slain upon your high places.
26   I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan;
greatly beloved were you to me;
your love to me was wonderful,
passing the love of women.

27 How the mighty have fallen,
and the weapons of war perished!

 

2 Corinthians 8: 7 – 15

 

Now as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in utmost eagerness, and in our love for you—so we want you to excel also in this generous undertaking.

I do not say this as a command, but I am testing the genuineness of your love against the earnestness of others. For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes’ he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich. 10 And in this matter I am giving my advice: it is appropriate for you who began last year not only to do something but even to desire to do something— 11 now finish doing it, so that your eagerness may be matched by completing it according to your means. 12 For if the eagerness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has—not according to what one does not have. 13 I do not mean that there should be relief for others and pressure on you, but it is a question of a fair balance between 14 your present abundance and their need, so that their abundance may be for your need, in order that there may be a fair balance. 15As it is written,‘The one who had much did not have too much, and the one who had little did not have too little.’

 

Mark 5: 21 – 43

A Girl Restored to Life and a Woman Healed

21 When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered round him; and he was by the lake. 22 Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet 23 and begged him repeatedly, ‘My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.’ 24 So he went with him.

And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. 25 Now there was a woman who had been suffering from haemorrhages for twelve years. 26 She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. 27 She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 for she said, ‘If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.’ 29 Immediately her haemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30 Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, ‘Who touched my clothes?’ 31And his disciples said to him, ‘You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, “Who touched me?” ’ 32 He looked all round to see who had done it. 33 But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.’

35 While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, ‘Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?’ 36 But overhearing* what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, ‘Do not fear, only believe.’ 37 He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. 38 When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. 39When he had entered, he said to them, ‘Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.’ 40 And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41 He took her by the hand and said to her, ‘Talitha cum’, which means, ‘Little girl, get up!’ 42 And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. 43 He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.


 It is difficult for us sometimes to grasp how much of a hero David is to the Jewish people. It’s not just that his was a rags to riches story, or that he was a rescuer of Israel from the Philistines, or that he established a messianic dynasty; but rather that he, like Peter, was a man with a passionate love for God but who was nevertheless very human. That makes David someone we can associate with.

One of David’s most endearing qualities begins to appear early in life and may well have grown out of his early profession as a shepherd. The whole focus of a shepherd is to care, to place his life at the disposal of his sheep. A shepherd both disciplines his sheep to keep them from danger and feeds them by finding good pasture and water for them.

David knew that occasionally he would have to use his rod and staff to direct his sheep where they did not want to go because he knew either that danger lay in the course they were following, or that better nourishment lay in the direction he wanted them to go.

David learnt to care and he understood that the authority he exercised was for the good of his sheep.

 

David demonstrated his understanding of and respect for, authority in his relationship with King Saul. In spite of the fact that Saul was out to murder him he refused to take Saul’s life on at least two occasions when he was able to and when his friends were encouraging him to do so.

(1 Samuel 24: 6) He said to his men, “The LORD forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the LORD’s anointed, or lay my hand on him; for he is the anointed of the LORD.”

And this was in spite of the fact that Samuel had already anointed him as the next king of Israel. David waited for God to allow Saul’s death. He would not force God’s hand.  David was not going to tell God what to do. He had a remarkable generosity of spirit.

When King Saul and his son Jonathan (who was David’s closest friend), were killed by the Philistines on Mount Gilboa, David both praises and laments over, not just Jonathan – but King Saul too.

 

19 Your glory, O Israel, lies slain upon your high places!
How the mighty have fallen!

 

23 Saul and Jonathan, beloved and lovely!
In life and in death they were not divided;
they were swifter than eagles,
they were stronger than lions.

24 O daughters of Israel, weep over Saul,
who clothed you with crimson, in luxury,
who put ornaments of gold on your apparel.

25 How the mighty have fallen
in the midst of the battle!

You see David knew that his life, his prosperity, the life of Israel and its good, lay in the hands of God, and that God would make a way. His generosity of spirit grew both out of his relationship with God and the caring profession of shepherding that moulded his early thinking.

And that caring was not simply functional – a function of his employment – a measure of the approval he sought from his father for a job well done out in the fields. David was loving, and as St Paul tells us (1 Corinthians 13)  Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. 7It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love does not insist on its own way. Love makes us teachable. It makes us receivers, not givers of advice. It accepts the authority of God’s anointed because it knows that in God’s good time, God will sort things out.

You see David served. He didn’t demand his own way. Even after Saul died it was some years before David actually became king of all Israel.

David understood (in the words of Psalm 75: 6 -7) For promotion comes neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south. But God is the judge: he puts down one, and sets up another.

 

David must have had such a vision for what he wanted Israel to be! And yet Saul was leading the country astray. Did David take up arms against Saul? No. He simply served as best he could and waited for God to sort Saul out.

Had David forced things and killed Saul he would have lost out on years of teaching – teaching in managing his followers, teaching in humility, teaching in depending upon God, teaching in generosity of spirit.

 

Generosity of spirit is demonstrated in all three of our readings this morning. Jesus is approached by a ruler of the synagogue because his daughter is desperately ill. In making his way to the girl he is laughed at by the professional mourners but his generosity of spirit shines through and he orders them from the room. They are a distraction. He takes the girl’s parents and Peter, James and John with him and raises her from the dead.

 

Paul in speaking to the Corinthians knows that it will be for their own good for them to make a substantial donation to their poor Christian fellows in Jerusalem.  (2 Corinthians 8: 7)  7Now as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in utmost eagerness, and in our love for you*—so we want you to excel also in this generous undertaking.*

He’s looking for a generous spirit in them. He’s testing how teachable they are.

(2 Corinthians 8: 8 – 10a)  8 I do not say this as a command, but I am testing the genuineness of your love against the earnestness of others. 9For you know the generous act* of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich. 10And in this matter I am giving my advice

 

Every now and again God’s word comes to us and it will always be testing because God wants more than anything for us to grow into the likeness of Christ. This doesn’t happen instantly. Like David we go through long periods of service, putting our own desires on the back-burner, allowing our selfish natures to be crucified so that we can shine with the life of Christ.

God is looking for teachable people, not people who are stuck in their own ways, who think they know how things should be done and who are not prepared to allow God to mould them into the likeness of Christ.

I said earlier that David was a man with a passionate love for God who was also very human. God doesn’t mind the human bit. He can work with that. God is looking for a generosity of spirit because – as St Paul said to the fledgling church in Antioch –  After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’ (Acts 13: 22)

He will do everything I want him to do.

 

God bless you.

Amen.

 

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