Signpost for Sunday 28 June 2015: 2 Sam 1:1,17-27; Ps 130; 2 Cor 8:7-15; Mark 5:21-43.
How we understand today’s Gospel depends largely on how we regard miracle. For some, there is no problem; miracles are described in the Bible, so they must have happened just that way.
But for others, myself included, that is simply not reality. There are some who find it sufficient to argue the scientific case, but I want more than that. I want to combat the manipulation of people by so-called faith healers. I have heard such healers saying to sick people that they will be healed if their faith is strong enough. (If healing was to happen in such a situation, then it would be by grace alone, for we cannot earn forgiveness, let alone healing.)
But even that is not the case. I also want to root my objections in the nature of God and God’s love, in the reality of God shown in Jesus.
For example, when someone prays to a saint for healing, they believe God is saying, “I am prepared to listen more to one of my special good people than to the ordinary people. I have rules for the running of the universe, but I am happy to change them a little bit on special occasions because that is how I love my (few) special people.”
I believe that God loves all the world. God might love the poor a little more than the rest of us, because their need is greater, but God does not show his love by making his people rich and successful. And it is the world that God loves, not just the church, the believers. Faith is not the source of God’s blessing; it is God’s blessing.
The first task of the preacher is Exegesis. That is, she/he must try to work out what God is saying through the passage under consideration, remembering that it is written in terms of an understanding that belongs to a long-gone time and to another country, and even another religion.
That is why it is easier to preach on the parables of Jesus than on the ‘events’ of Jesus’ life. We accept the limitations of the story-telling format then.
In the end, I have only one measure by which I assess the theology of the past and the present. “How does it relate to the sacrificial death of God-in-Christ that is the heart of the Gospel?” If God is described as a man of war, then I know it is an outmoded form. If God is described as the God of the European, I know something is broken within. If God is love, then we can explore that in our own terms.
A sub-theme for preaching for today is the generosity of God which calls forth our generosity – give according to you means, not according to your mean-ness!