Musical prelude and Sermon
Sermon – October 3
I must confess that today’s scripture is not one I really like. It has been used over the years in ways that has brought pain and shame to a great many people. But I also believe that we must be prepared to wrestle with all parts of scripture; not just the ones that we find “easy”. It is one of the challenges of sticking with the Revised Common Lectionary.
So this is one of those Sundays many clergy approach with trepidation. The scripture we read from Mark is one that has caused a great deal of pain over the years and even centuries.
It is one used to legislate against divorce, or even to make those who get divorced feel guilty; that they are going against God’s will. It has also been used to target the LGBTQ community as going against God’s will. Let me be upfront. I disagree with both those positions.
And so I have reflected, prayed, put things aside and prayed some more and put off setting down any words as I wondered what I could possibly say in regards to today’s scripture.
What is the wisdom? What is the underlying truth that we find as we wrestle with this passage where Jesus says divorce is something to be avoided?
I find myself going back to another thing Jesus told us; which is that the greatest commandment is to Love God with all we have and to love one another as we love ourselves.
Today’s scripture is a story of Jesus engaging in a back and forth with a group of pharisees. Can people get divorced? Well, according to Jewish law they can. But Jesus seems to be arguing that just because they can doesn’t mean they should.
It is critical to consider when reading scripture around marriage, that marriage in the time of Jesus was really not like our modern western marriage. Where we choose to marry out of love; generally speaking, marriage in the time of the scriptures was more of a business or political arrangement. A form of merger, so to speak. It was also an institution in which the women generally did not have a whole lot of say in the matter. Divorce could be a devastating situation for the woman involved.
In the Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew, Jesus notes various commandments and bits of Hebrew law and then expands on it,or takes things a step further. He is essential arguing that the law; the set of rules established by Moses is a starting point. It is the minimum to establishing a relationship with God.
But to truly love God and to love one another; your fellow human beings; you need to move beyond a set of rules that have been set down.
If you are getting divorced and marrying someone else just to improve your social standing or your financial position, and show no regard for the spouse you married before God, how is that deepening your relationship with either? That is what I find myself coming back to.
This is about what kind of relationship you wish to have with God and with those around you.
It is about so much more than just divorce? Good or bad?
We live in a time where all of us have some connection to divorce. I have learned enough in my time in the world to never presume to know what happens in other people’s relationships. There are more reasons than I care to count for deciding to end a marriage, a great many of them absolutely just. Instead of passing judgement, I am told to love one another and relate to them with compassion.
It is significant that the last few verses are included in this reading.
To approach God, be like a child.
What does that mean? I suspect it has to do with wonder and openness, but also powerless and vulnerable.
It is not about who is best able to follow a long list of rules but who is most open to loving and caring for one another. It is about seeking a loving relationship.
In today’s scripture, Jesus is responding to a challenging question that can be seen as designed to trip him up. Jesus asks us to think about more than the simple legality of the situation. To think about our relationships; with God and with one another. What are the consequences of our actions?
So let us consider our relations and avoid falling back on easy or convenient answers and truly spend time in reflection and prayer when confronted with real challenges.
Thanks be to God. Amen
Music provided with permission through licensing with CCLI License number
2701258 and One License # A-731789