Welcome to the kingdom

28 June 2015
Fifth Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 8B (RCL)
2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27
Psalm 130
2 Corinthians 8:7-15
Mark 5:21-43

Most Sundays, I’m grateful for a lectionary – I don’t have to choose readings. Some Sundays, though, I find the choices maddening. Last week, we heard the story of David meeting Saul after slaying Goliath, and this Sunday, we leap over all the intervening story of the relationship between the two, the different styles of leadership, the whole story of David and Jonathan, and deal with the deaths of Saul and Jonathan. Lectionary whiplash. Also, we heard the story of Jesus crossing the Sea of Galilee in a storm and calming the storm. We leap over the story of the Garasene demoniac (whose name was Legion). We get the story of the crossing of the sea, but not the drowning of the oppressor’s army. The choices make it hard to tell a coherent story.

A huge chunk of material in Mark’s Gospel is framed by an Exodus typology. Twice, Jesus crosses the sea miraculously and then, several chapters later, feeds a crowd in the wilderness. Between each sea crossing and feeding, there are three healings. In the first instance, the healings are the Gerasene demoniac (the drowning of Pharaoh’s army, humorously, in a herd of pigs), and then the woman with the hemorrhage and Jairus’ daughter. These two stories are told in a fashion that in seminary we called a Marcan sandwich: one story is intercalated into the middle of another. In these instances, the inside story interprets the outside story: the story of the woman with the hemorrhage tells us how to understand the story of Jairus’ daughter.

There are a number of parallels to insure that we make the connection. Jesus calls the woman “daughter” when he wheels on her in the crowd. She has hemorrhaged for twelve years and the little girl is twelve years old. The woman would have been excluded for the ceremonial table (unable to eat the passover or any other sacrificial meal) for the twelve years. At age twelve, girls would be on the verge of menarche. She would have been experiencing this exclusion for the first time.

At the end of the story, Jesus tells those around her to “give her something to eat.” This is exactly the same instruction (the same vocabulary) he tells the disciples when they wonder how the crowd in the wilderness will eat. The healing consists of bringing the outcast back to the table. Jesus is leading a new people across the Red Sea and into the wilderness where they will be fed by God on the wilderness way. This new people is made up of the outcasts of Israel. In the second instance of this arrangement, Jesus is not in the boat with the disciples and the third healing is the Syro-Phoenician woman’s daughter: even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table. In this instance the new people crossing the sea and eating in the wilderness includes Gentiles.

In the reading from 2 Corinthians, Paul is encouraging the Corinthians to be generous in his collection for the saints in Jerusalem. He is working to hold his gospel, which includes a mixed Jewish/Gentile fellowship, together with the Jerusalem church, which is primarily Jewish. Again, the kingdom is in the meal, and the collection makes the connection between the meals shared in Paul’s community and the meals shared in the temple precincts. Both Jesus and Paul are gathering in those formerly excluded and creating a new people on its way to the kingdom.

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