Appointed readings in the Revised CommonLectionary for this week are:
2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27
Wisdom of Solomon 1:13-15; 2:23-24
or Psalm 30
2 Corinthians 8:7-15
Often, the best place to find His Riches is flat on your face.
I know it’s not very “seeker friendly” to talk about this. And maybe it’s unwise to begin this new web ministry by dwelling on Biblical truths like:
It is good for a man that he bear
the yoke in his youth.
Let him sit alone in silence
when it is laid on him;
let him put his mouth in the dust,
there may yet be hope; (Lam. 3:27-29, ESV)
But my hope is that you will desire to receive His Riches, not the ones you get when you’re standing on your feet and everyone is applauding.
Receiving His Riches while flat on your face means different things, though, to different people. While this theme runs through all of the readings appointed for this week, the differences also speak to hearers who find themselves in three very different places.
First, to the people who find themselves on their faces already. Take heart. Your vindication is nearer to you than ever before.
The two women in our readings today are the sisters of all those whose lives have been shattered by sin and the brokenness of Creation. There is a boldness in this reading from Mark that I would beg you to adopt for yourself. Like the first woman, whose uncleanness should have kept her out of that crowd, pursue your Healer with confidence. And when you find yourself too weak to battle the crowd and look Him in the face, know that His love and power are still yours, even if only the hem of His garment is in reach.
And if you are too weak to go for yourself, even at the point of death, let someone go boldly and foolishly before Him on your behalf. Perhaps there is an intercessor who can stand for you in prayer, and perhaps your only intercessor is the Advocate. If you can’t even find the strength or the faith to pray, let the Holy Spirit intercede for you.
This week’s readings speak to a second group who might wish they didn’t. These have been chosen by God to be broken so that they might grow in their knowledge and love of Him. These would be believers already. As with all of us though, there remain places in them that are hard, that resist His mercy. These stony places in us harden us toward His children in ways we often cannot see, and so He ministers to them.
It is not popular these days to suggest that God inflicts pain, but the Scriptures are difficult to argue with here. “He does not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men,” (Lamentations 3:33 ESV) means He does afflict us. But never as punishment and never without cost to Himself. He opposes the proud (James 4:6, ESV), and which of us harbors no pride at all?
Among believers, I think that it can be difficult to tell which is which between these first two. Am I sick or in grief because the world I live in is broken by sin? Or is it because the Lord is drawing me to Himself? I think the question is pointless. The response is the same.
When the breaking comes, we seek His Face, and only His Face. We cease to rely on our own strength, whatever there might have been of it, and lean on Him. Only on Him. With the young man whose mouth is in the dust, we look up and cry out. And receiving mercy upon mercy, our faith and our witness and our proclamation find new power and depth.
David stands for us as the emblem of a third group. He too is overwhelmed by grief, but this is not entirely his. He shares in it, surely, but this is the Father’s grief at the death of His anointed. David, always a prophet, speaks here the depth of God’s grief over Saul. There are those within the Body of Christ whose hearts (and sometimes bodies, as in the case of Francis) are repeatedly broken by the grief of God Himself.
It may be difficult to imagine that this is a blessing, but it is. To know the Father’s heart that intimately is to know love so furious that all else melts away in it’s heat. This love transforms the lover, but it also exposes him or her to the Father’s grief at the fallen state of His Creation. Cast to earth by a Love that has become our own, we can only look up to Jesus, whose resurrection reminds us of the Father’s victory. He takes us firmly by the hand and says, “Rise, little one.”
I don’t know many who pursue God to this extent, to this degree, but I wish it for all of us.
This isn’t the world’s path to success. It isn’t the world’s program for church growth.
But it is the path to the Father’s Heart, and His Riches.