Even a tiny scrap of hope

2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27
In this reading we hear about David’s grief at the deaths of Saul and Jonathan, which leads to a poetic lament, which is a tribute to the fallen father and son. What surprises me is the fact that David eulogises so eloquently about his arch enemy Saul, who wanted him dead. I think that’s because what we see here is Saul from a completely human standpoint, the one who was so significant to Israel over the years; providing leadership, national unity, security and prosperity. Saul and Jonathan dying looks like a disastrous defeat for Israel and our reading ends on a note of despair with no hope for the future. Yet, even so, David, despairing in the loss of a friend and the defeat of a nation, rises to become the greatest of kings. It seems that God can use even the tiniest scrap of hope.

Psalm 130
This psalm begins with a heartfelt cry to God from the depths of alienation. We don’t know who wrote, when, where, or the context. It moves quickly from intense desire to humble confession and repentance, to confident expectation and finally joyful expectation for the writer and for the nation. It starts off individual, and ends up community, and there’s an appeal for hope with the certainty of God’s unfailing love and redemptive power. It seems that God can use even the tiniest scrap of hope.

2 Corinthians 8:7-15
This passage focuses around Paul’s collection of funds for the Jerusalem church. The money would meet economic needs among the Jewish congregations, which tended to be less wealthy than their Gentile counterparts, but it would also emphasise unity between the two. These verses not only encourage readers to think about how we use our resources of time, talents and money but about how our actions might reflect Gospel values. The Corinthians are urged to give generously in the knowledge that God has already provided abundantly for them. Christ gave up everything so that others might receive the wealth of God’s grace. In the Corinthians passage we learn that the smallest of gifts can reap riches if given in the spirit of Christ, who gave all that we might inherit the kingdom. It seems that God can use even the tiniest scrap of hope.

Mark 5:21-43
It looks like we’ve got an interruption here. On his way to heal Jairus’ daughter Jesus heals a chronically ill woman, and then goes back to Jairus’ daughter. There two stories of come together to illustrate powerfully the role that Jesus’ has over life and death. In the healing of Jairus’ daughter, Jesus is revealed here for the first time as having power over death. At the same time, in the story of the woman with persistent bleeding, Jesus allows himself to be defiled (in the eyes of the law) in order to make her clean and offer her new life. Here we are reminded that not only do we worship a God of infinite power, but one of immeasurable compassion and tenderness who is sensitive to our sufferings. It seems that God can use even the tiniest scrap of hope.

All four of our readings tonight use very different stories to remind us that God can use even the slightest thread of hope to do more than we can imagine. David, despairing in the loss of a friend and the defeat of a nation, rises to become the greatest of kings. The writer of the Psalm moves from anguish to certainty by trusting in God who keeps promises. In the Corinthians passage we learn that the smallest of gifts can reap riches if given in the spirit of Christ, who gave all that we might inherit the kingdom. In our Gospel passage, we see how words of simple faith – or perhaps desperation – transform lives. Our faith does not need to be refined, eloquent, or shaped in the traditional wording of the creeds to be worthy of notice. We can be rich or poor, have everything or nothing, be distinguished or destitute, still God hears every sigh, every deep and heartfelt longing as prayer, even if it comes only because we have nowhere else to turn. Thank god that god is a God of hope.