The Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

Readings II Samuel 1:1, 17 – 27; Psalm 130; II Corinthians 8: 7 – 15; Mark 5: 21 – 43

I am a history buff.  Frequently on our trips to Barnes and Noble in State College, I will pick up a biography or a book of history.  This time of year, my thoughts go to Gettysburg.  In the last few days of June in 1863, the rebel troops were marching north, in all probability to sever the rail lines in Harrisburg.  The Union troops were carefully keeping between the invaders and the nation’s capital and also Philadelphia.  The battle engaged on the first, the second, and the third of July, and on the fourth of July, the exhausted armies paused before the rebels retreated back to Virginia.  On the nineteen of November of that same year, with ruin still all around, Abraham Lincoln gave his famous address.  He knew of the overwhelming sacrifices of the Union men, and he saw in their sacrifice a glimpse of God’s hand as they fought for a “more perfect union”, and many gave “their last full measure of devotion”.  They fought for a vision for a cause larger than themselves.  And so, Abraham Lincoln honored them with his awesome address. 

Lincoln’s words on that day reminded people of the Preamble of the Constitution of the United States that went into effect in March of 1789.

We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, ensure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote general Welfare, and secure the blessing of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. 

The phrase, “To form a more perfect Union”, established that we can always improve, established that we can always strive to do better attitude.

In our reading from II Samuel, we heard of David mourning the battlefield deaths of King Saul, the first king of Israel, and his son. Jonathan, David’s closest companion.  They gave their lives on Mr. Gilboa, fighting the Philistines.  They were fighting for something larger than themselves.  I would call this generosity of spirit.  Their “last full measure of devotion” was to give up their lives for the people of Israel.  This generosity of spirit is also the key to St. Paul’s writing to the congregation in Corinth.  Jesus sacrificed his life for something larger, the Kingdom of God, and for us to see more clearly that Kingdom, and to invite us to be a part of the Kingdom of God with him.  His generosity recognized the bigger picture of life, and shared that vision with us, though it cost him “the last full measure of devotion”. 

Saul and Jonathan on Mt. Gilboa, Jesus on Mt. Calvary, Union troops on Little Round Top, and Seminary Ridge.  All gave for the greater good, and in their giving, we caught glimpses of the Kingdom of God. 

In our Gospel reading, there are two glimpses of the Kingdom of God that were there for all to see.  Jesus’ healing presence cured the woman of her hemorrhaging; Jesus took the hand of the seemingly dead young girl and gave the instructions that she needed something to eat.  These are glimpses of the Kingdom of God and are remembered to inspire us to do the same, to be generous and to work for a “more perfect union”, to work for a more perfect world for all people. 

I would contend that in the midst of this COVID crisis we have seen glimpses of the Kingdom, even glimpses where people have given “their last full measure of devotion”, glimpses where people have generously given of themselves for a better world. 

The developers, the teams, working at breakneck urgency to develop the vaccines, generously giving of themselves.  The first test subjects lined up for a shot in the arm to help determine the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness.  The health care workers who ministered to the infected and the dying, and who exhausted themselves, giving of themselves more than they thought they had to give. 

And let’s not forget all the caregivers at home and those who stayed home in quarantine so that others would not be infected.  They, too, were giving up their lives so that others might live.  There were also those of us who followed, and are still following, the guidelines for the sake of those around us. 

During this COVID crisis, we have witnessed the generosity of spirit in the hundreds, in the thousands, in the millions of people around this fragile earth, our island home. 

During this COVID crisis the Spirit of Jesus has been about, and we have seen it, we are witnesses.  People were stretched to “form a more perfect Union”, a more perfect bond, one to another.  Some people were stretched beyond the point of return and gave “their last full measure of devotion”. 

Generosity has abounded as people put the greater good before their own hopes, dreams, and desires. 

The Spirit of God, the Spirit of Jesus, has been among us.  We have seen glimpses of the Kingdom of God come to earth.  May we keep our eyes open so that our hearts may see the glories of God and respond with our own generosity beyond measure.


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