This is the sermon the Rev. Bradley Dyche, rector, preached on the Fifth Sunday after Pentecost at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Stephenville, on June 27, 2021 in the featured livestreamed service.
Readings: 2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27; Mark 5:21-43
In the name of God who Creates, Redeems, Sustains, and befriends us. Amen.
We at St. Luke’s are happy to have you worshiping with us right here in the ‘Ville. It’s a wonderful moment for us after celebrating with many good folks yesterday that we’re still here as the Episcopal Church in North Texas.
Friday, I, the Bishop, and Katie Sherrod also had the privilege of speaking with the Episcopal Church’s Executive Council. More on that in a moment. Because our readings this morning are a good primer. Today might as well be called Game of Thrones Sunday, at least in terms of the Old Testament reading we hear from today from 2nd Samuel. Much like Game of Thrones, there is a cut-throat grab for power, one that will upend a kingdom and begin a new era for Israel.
You remember from a few weeks ago when God told the people that they didn’t need a king. God told them that if they focused on the Love of God, they would be okay. Hearing that, they dismissed it. They wanted a king. And God anointed Saul. But like many firsts in the world, Saul really wasn’t up to the challenge. Absolute power wasn’t healthy for his mental health. He basically went stark raving mad about David, whom he was convinced was after his throne. He was also threatened by the relationship between David and his own son, the heir to the United King of Israel, Jonathan. We are told in 1st Samuel that Jonathan loved David, more than women, to the point that at first sight, we are told that two became one in Spirit.
Now, that could be a romantic love, which on Pride Sunday, I am happy to acknowledge. But it also could have also just been a really good friend. Or perhaps, they shared the kind of camaraderie that warriors share. We don’t know, and they didn’t spell these things out in the same way then. But we do know that they were both successful warriors. And we know that they loved each other.
When we first hear of Jonathan, we hear of him winning a battle, that he has the prowess of a warrior. Unbeknownst to him, however, his Father had, without Jonathan being present, made a curse on anyone who ate food before sundown, an offering to God, a modicum of control in an uncontrollable war. And we know that Jonathan has eaten some honey. After that Satan-filled temptation of apiology, Jonathan learns of this oath. He goes to his Father in protest. Umm Dad, maybe you don’t want soldiers who are tired and weak from fasting right now. Saul’s egomaniacal kingly-power overflows when he learns of the transgression. Saul moves to have his own child killed, murdered, because he ate honey. I don’t know about you, but that kind of puts the divisiveness of our times, in perspective in the history of the world.
Luckily, some soldiers protested to the point that Jonathan lived. But then, Saul decided to order that David be killed, a command which Jonathan refused to carry out. Saul even says to Jonathan that he is the “son of a perverse and rebellious woman!” (1st Samuel 20). And he throws a javelin at him.
Jonathan and David’s friendship is enduring and brave. These were ride or die *&*&^%. Then, what we hear today, is that Jonathan and his Father are killed in another battle. And today, we hear this beautiful hymn, an expression of love and friendship. A beautiful tribute to a beautiful relationship. David cries out.
O daughters of Israel, weep over Saul,
who clothed you with crimson, in luxury,
who put ornaments of gold on your apparel. [High praise for someone trying to kill you].
How the mighty have fallen
in the midst of the battle!
Jonathan lies slain upon your high places.
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.
How the mighty have fallen,
and the weapons of war perished!
They’re beautiful, from the heart, words. They are a public recognition of all that has happened, the love, the madness, the insanity of battle, the insanity of thinking that good violence can end bad violence. Perhaps, this Sunday, this is a chance for our own diocese to bury the dead as much as possible… and move on with helping make God’s Kingdom blossom and God’s people grow.
Which brings me to the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church. In that meeting, Katie Sherrod shared the history of how we got here. The Bishop shared his own experience of his time as Bishop, and I shared part of my own story, how I was received in the Diocese. I said:
“There is an excitement that is hard to contain here. Once, I believed that such excitement rose from the possibility of a windfall of millions of dollars. When that did not come, when we received an adverse ruling, when we honored that moment. Instead I saw a people of real joy, Resurrection and an empty tomb. True, there was not only real sorrow about our brothers and sisters but also joy anyway. Our Bishop reminded us of the words of Louis Crew, “Joy anyway.” And we have lived up to that. It is an irony not lost on me, that in this diocese, the most comforting words, the words that hold us together, come from the founder of Integrity. It seems like Louis might smile at that as he says, “I dropped the anyway.”
Which brings me to the Gospel. And the resurrection of young women. Paul Neuchterlien writes:
“Consider Jesus the Physician in this morning’s gospel lesson. If we read the whole story, it inserts one healing story within another. Before we learn of the woman who has been hemorrhaging for twelve years, Jesus has just responded to Jairus’ plea on behalf of his sick daughter. Jesus is on his way there, when he stops for this woman who has used up all of her money, only to have been made worse by the doctors. He doesn’t stop to heal her, really; she has taken the faith initiative to healing by simply touching the hem of his garment. She is already healed when Jesus nevertheless pauses to notice, and to listen to her whole story. Even more important, Jesus pauses to specifically name her inclusion into God’s family. ‘Daughter,’ he says to her, ‘your faith has made you well.’ ‘Daughter.’ Meanwhile, Jairus’ daughter has died. While Jesus paused to listen to this nameless, penniless, unclean woman, the daughter of this important, named leader of the synagogue has died. Isn’t there a scandal here? In a society of winners and losers, Jairus’ daughter clearly should have come first, and this woman second. But Jesus lets her interrupt his mission of healing. She is not just some loser by comparison, but in fact is every bit as much of a ‘daughter’ as is the daughter of this important official. Jesus does not get caught up in the usual human games of winners and losers. Instead, he overcomes it.”
Friendship and resurrection.
Lest we bury the lead, the story today is of friendship and resurrection. The resurrection of Jairus’s daughter, the resurrection of us. We might live in a Game of Thrones world, where loss is real, but we also live in the world of Jesus. And that Jesus shows us that there is no love lost. That our relationships matter, and that new life is coming. Resurrection is coming, and that it will grow out of our losses.