5th after Trinity – proper 8
The Wisdom of Solomon 1: 13 -15; 2:23-24. (This reading is taken from the Apocrypha and so many of you won't find it in a modern western Bible. I'll explain why a little further on in this email) This set piece should have verse 12 added to it to make sense. The death referred to here is spiritual death, a life lived in opposition to life-giving wisdom. Life and death in this passage mean more than bare physical existence. In the second extract from chapter two it says that humanity, despite the reality of physical death, was endowed with a spiritual eternity in fellowship with God.
2 Corinthians 8: 7-15. Paul is raising money for the impoverished church in Jerusalem and he appeals to the Corinthians by saying that the authenticity of their faith is as stake here. It should be noted that he doesn't ask for sacrificial giving here (as Jesus sometimes did), more a redistribution of wealth.
Mark 5: 24-43. The two healings that take place here; the woman from her hemorrhage and the little girl from death are casting Jesus as the ultimate healer, even from mortality. These kind of events, divorced from the gospel, could cause nothing but fear and amazement, which is possibly a reason why Jesus orders people to keep quiet about the miracles.
In Mark’s gospel chapter 8: 35-36 Jesus says;
35 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?
There in Jesus’ own words we see what the writer of “The wisdom of Solomon” is talking about. There is far more to a human being than just our bare physical existence.
Our Death can be more than a physical death, there is our spiritual death also.
Jesus in an incident reported in Matthew and Luke tells a young man who wants to follow Jesus but wants to bury his father first says to him,
“Let the dead bury their own dead”
These people were very much physically alive but Jesus refers to them as dead already – spiritually dead.
In that small exchange, Jesus locates himself as the source of spiritual life.
Christians can talk about “being alive in Christ”, meaning that we already have eternal life as a gift, a life that transcends mortal existence.
In Jesus’ life and ministry we get copious foretastes of the fact that Jesus is the Lord of life, a fact made plain by his resurrection and the giving of the Spirit.
And in our gospel reading this morning we have two signs of that fact.
Christians talk about being saved, by a saviour don’t we?
Note that the root of the word salvation is “salve” to heal. All the healing miracles or “signs” as John’s gospel calls them point towards that great healing that is the salvation of the world and potentially everyone in it if they repent and believe the gospel.
The healing of the woman with the haemorrhage and even more startling, the raising to life of a little girl who had died back to physical life again are the signs of the divine in Jesus, which was crowned eventually by God raising Jesus himself to eternal life.
God was working with and through Jesus to accomplish these things and if we place our faith in this man and bind our life to his through the means of the Holy Spirit we have the privilege to know eternal life as well.
Eternal life manifests itself as a quality of life because knowing that our life is not bound by our physical birth and physical death but writ large against an infinite horizon gives us an eternal perspective.
It is in seeing the world through Jesus tinted glasses, seeing everything painted on a much bigger canvas that frees us to be rather more open and generous than we might be, especially to our fellow Christians when they hit hard times.
This is what essentially Paul is appealing to when he is appealing for money to support the impoverished church in Jerusalem from the Corinthian church.
Paul says “he is testing the genuineness of your love”. There are consequences to having a Christian faith and Paul wants to see some of its outworking in the actions of the Corinthian Church.
We are saved by faith in God’s grace not by works, but the genuineness of our faith is evidenced by our works – what we do and how we treat each other.
Jesus told us to go and bear fruit in accordance with the Spirit.