Posted on Thu, Oct 8, 2015
October 4, 2015
19th Sunday after Pentecost
Gospel Text: Mark 10:2-16 “The GIFT of Relationship”
2 Some Pharisees came, and to test him they asked ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?’ 3 He answered them, ‘What did Moses command you?’ 4 They said, ‘Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her.’ 5 But Jesus said to them, ‘Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you. 6 But from the beginning of creation, “God made them male and female.” 7 “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, 8 and the two shall become one flesh.” So they are no longer two, but one flesh. 9 Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.’
10 Then in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. 11 He said to them, ‘Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; 12 and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.’ People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. 14 But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. 15 Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.’ 16 And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.
The “divorce texts” have arrived! This is one of those texts that seem to make some people squirm, including pastors. It just seems to cut too close to the painful experiences some of us have had to endure in our life journey. Journeys that included painful events that we never would have ever expected, or dreamed would “happen to us.” But as we know, divorce happens in our society, it happens all over the world, and breakups, disappointments, betrayals, regrets, unreachable expectations happen, and there seems to be no way to predict or expect that an experience as difficult as a divorce could happen to us. Who walks up the aisle muttering to themselves, “this will be a disaster!” We may be looking at this text and waiting for the pastor to, “Justify my decision! Prove me right and it was so-and-so’s fault!” or looking down ones nose someone might say, “This text proves that I am right, all divorce is wrong!”
As we know, Jesus is never one to avoid a difficult, or even ill-intentioned question, if he can turn it into a teaching moment; Especially, like this question from the Pharisees, when the apparent question was asked not for expanding wisdom but just to ‘test’ Jesus, can be turned into an opportunity to push us to repentance and depending on the unconditional love of God.
Look at the setting. Take some time to peruse Mark chapter 9 and read about all the great things Jesus has done up in the northern, “Jewish part” of Judea. Jesus is doing incredible miracles, but also teaching in ways that make some people uncomfortable… remember the imagery of a millstone tied around your neck and you being tossed into the sea if you were to ever make a little one to stumble? … I am sure Jesus’ teaching fell on the ears of some of the religious leaders, and that is why out of nowhere a group of Pharisees come, not to question Jesus, but to make Him stumble.
They asked Jesus a question that was difficult in Jesus’ day as it is today. In Jesus’ day marriage had nothing to do with love or the desire to spend the rest of your life with the person you love the most and feel most connected. Love had more to do with continuing family lines, social status, family economics and wealth. Women were considered property and only men had power over wealth, family and even the status of members of the family. Yes, there is a major justice issue that must be addressed. But that is not the purpose of the Pharisee’s visit.
They come with that difficult question so many people struggle with; whether we are looking for justification, vindication, or some kind of validation… in order to ‘test’ Jesus, they ask, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?’ Since Jesus has attacked so many of the “foundational” traditions of the elders in the past, why not attack Jesus on another foundational issue, even though it is just really a tradition and custom rather than a commandment or law?”
Jesus immediately goes to the source of this tradition, and that is Moses. “What does Moses say?” And the Pharisees give the answer all the people know, and many women have become victimized, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her.” A man can simply write a certificate and justify the divorce for whatever reason or justification he wants; essentially reducing her to a possession or tool, like a thing that can be thrown away. Therefore, this issue is a justice issue for Jesus… As God made man and woman equal, the traditions the Pharisees are contrary to God’s message about relationships that God has brought together
So Jesus goes to His own authority (God=Himself) and says, “But from the beginning of creation, “God made them male and female.” 7 “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, 8 and the two shall become one flesh.” So they are no longer two, but one flesh. 9 Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.’”
Jesus is saying that in regards to a relationship in which God has brought together, “let no one separate.” That means, neither partner, no ruler, no elected or appointed leader; NO ONE can separate two people that God has brought together. You can write any certificate of complaint or whatever you want, but Jesus is saying, “Humans aren’t the authority about ‘What God has joined together, let no one separate.’”
What God has brought together, it was meant to be, now and forever. God is pretty big on relationships. Look at what “relationship” means in God’s eyes. God IS love, therefore when God Created all of Creation, God was creating relationships so that “God could be who God is!” A God of love creates so that God can share God’s very self with Creation in love. God created relations so that “the love of God could be experienced within relationship.” And God would stop at nothing to maintain that relationship. In order to preserve that relationship, the God of Love, even in the face of rejection and rebellion, is willing to constantly forgive, show mercy, pick up and renew those who have fallen or rejected God… THIS IS THE CENTRAL THEME OF THE ENTIRE OLD TESTAMENT. JESUS IS SPEAKING AS GOD, NOT A MARRIAGE COUNSELOR.
Does Jesus’ teaching make you uncomfortable? Does it seem a little narrow and unforgiving? Or, is it more than we could accept, considering we are the rebellious ones… It should…
Let’s look at it this way; When Jesus commanded us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the prisoner, He wasn’t kidding. Only in doing so would we begin to make Jesus’ teaching real to our heart, mind and soul, as well as helping us to become like Jesus in the world. When God commanded Israel to, care for the orphan, widow and stranger, God was very serious and had a purpose for God’s People in the commandment. Only in doing such things was God’s grace and mercy going to be made known in the world, and God’s people would understand the importance of compassion, forgiveness and mercy.
When Jesus commands us to, “Love your enemies!” How does that make us feel? Can we do it? If you were in the hospital that was just bombed in Kundus this weekend killing doctors, staff and patients from “Doctors without Boarders,” could you forgive the pilot of the jet? What if your child was one of the victims from the countless mass shootings in our country in the past year, could you forgive the shooter? Still, we are called to work for justice, but first we are called to forgive… Can we do just such an apparantly impossible thing!
What I see is all of us running to God and saying, I’m sorry, I understand what you are doing, but what you are asking of me is too difficult. And Jesus would say, I know, that is why you need a Savior, a Messiah, the One Chosen by your Creator God… Me. Divorce is simply a symptom of human failure that is contrary to God’s intentions in creation. Jesus was sent to us to begin the process of healing and helping us to realize/remember our true identity.
Living within that reality of God’s love, we live we need to remember that whatever difficult issue caused a breaking of a marriage ending in divorce, the reasons for the breakup never defines who we are! We all go through difficult and sometime horrific experiences, but those experiences, no matter how bad they are, do not define us, our baptism defines us! The labels that people attach to other people because of a divorce, tragedy or mistake can tear people apart. Gossip that identifies someone as, “So and so, the divorcée” destroys relationships, alienating and destroying the victims. Gossip has no place within the Community of Faith.
Jesus makes it clear that no one is to be disposed of with a simple note or certificate… All people are valuable in God’s eyes. According to God’s heart, each and everyone in this room, whether they have suffered the pain of divorce, or any kind of painful separation, is worth dying for, and Jesus obedience of going to the cross for the sake of our relationship with God proves that point.
Divorce happens because humans are always involved… but the divorce or any painful experience we may have to endure does not define us, only the love of God shown to us in the death and resurrection Christ defines us…
Are we wounded, broken, hurt, still suffering and in grief? That means, on this morning, you are in the right place. The “House of God,” The place where we can repent for things done and undone, hear that we are forgiven, receive mercy, be fed with the Body of Christ, and sent out blessed to be a blessing to all those who still be in pain, living in judgment. Amen.
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