There will be no recorded worship this morning. Here is the sermon our Lay Pastor Associate preached today:
Sunday, October 3, 2021
Written by: Pastor Jane Gingrich, Hills of Peace, Kamloops, BC
Job 1:1; 2:1-10
Psalm 26 (3)
Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12
The Holy Gospel according to Mark, the 10th chapter:
Some Pharisees came, and to test him they asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” 3He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” 4They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her.” 5But Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you. 6But 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, 8and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. 9Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
10Then in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. 11He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; 12and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”
13People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. 14But 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. 15Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” 16And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.
May the mercy of God be made known to you in these words:
As a person who is divorced and eventually remarried, this gospel reading usually makes me shudder.
But doesn’t the law always make us shudder when we’re feeling somewhat accused by it? Think about when you were last driving just a little bit over the speed limit – [said sarcastically]: not much of course – and discovered a police car just up ahead?
The law is meant to accuse us; because the law shows us where we have work to do.
But don’t worry about it, because you know what I love about being Lutheran?!?! If you DO everything just right- then you earn your salvation!! If you behave just the right way and do exactly the right thing – then God thinks you’re the best!!
I can be sarcastic at times; so now I am wondering: does anybody agree with what I just said?? Is that really what Lutherans believe?!?
No! We don’t! Lutherans do not believe that “by our own acts” we are saved.
Lutherans DO believe that by “GRACE” we are saved – which means, that by God’s mercy and love – by God’s action, we are saved.
Phew! Thank goodness for that! Because, you see, back before Jesus’ time people were saved by the law. – not convicted by it like us. Back then, the way it worked was that people believed they were perfectly made, but that sometimes they had little stains that needed fixing with a sacrifice or some other rule or law where all they had to do was give alms or DO something to save themselves because of a sin they committed.
When it came to sexual relations with a partner, if one wanted to divorce the other: okay, let’s be clear, if a man wanted to dismiss his wife, he would get a little paper that gave him permission and then he was free… …but if the woman wanted a divorce from her husband, the rules didn’t hold.
By the grace of God, Christ was sent to us, and since then things have been a little different! – NOW we see and know the brokenness of humanity. We recognize that it is an unfortunate habit of ours to put ourselves first and others after. And we experience the trials of doing our best, but failing over and over.
By the great love of God, Jesus forgives us for all the many times we fail; always inviting us towards reconciliation and a change of heart.
Even when we fail and cause harm to each other on a daily basis:
- Stealing music online.
- Re-traumatizing indigenous peoples and neglecting to provide genuine care
- Coveting a friend’s new car or neighbour’s RV
- Breaking off a relationship in divorcing one partner and marrying another…
God’s law shows us what is impossible for us to do by ourselves. The law of God shows us where we need to repent and return to right relationship- because God does not desire our eternal condemnation.
We work at it, and we know we’ll slip-up, but God never gives up on us.
There are things that we have done in our lives and that we continue to do that are against the will of God- that’s “sin.”
The tough lesson for us is that God invites us to live with eyes open:
God invites us to live with discernment and to CHOOSE to live as God intends.
Part of that living requires us to recognize that we experience brokenness- in our relationships with our chosen partners; in our families of first, second, or seventh marriages; in our relationships- where even when we love each other, we still undermine and harm each other by our daily actions.
We live in a broken world- but we do not need to be pulled under by the heavy current. Over and over and over Jesus invites us to look at what we have done and to seek redemption. To seek God’s re-DEEM-ing power to bring life out of what has been broken; to show us that we are not the judge; and that Christ has already set us apart by the promises made in our baptism.
Let’s get back to this situation of divorce mentioned in the Gospel:
Even in these days, divorce has a stigma attached to it.
How do I know?? Well, I can speak from my own experience where there were the months of guilt, then the challenges of getting beyond the shame of giving up on my first marriage…
But let’s not talk about only me: Let’s talk about… Elizabeth Taylor!!!!!…
7 husbands?! Really!??! – “let the judgment begin” – right?
To talk about her is easier because it is almost comical…
…but it isn’t just funny. We experience the brokenness of our society to the ‘nth’ degree!
What Jesus says in his speech about adultery, is that there isn’t any part of creation that isn’t going to need the redemptive activity of God to make it whole.
The premise of adultery this morning refers specifically to the practice of treating women as property of the men in ancient Israelite society. The whole debate about adultery is a way for the religious leaders of the day to justify continuing to have the kind of sex that they want to have blessed, as long as they find a religious way to sanctify it! …and Jesus is saying “NO!” – it is still a form of adultery.
In other words, the Pharisees are mis-using and belittling something that God has created with the best of intentions: a partnership between two beloved humans as the horizon out of which we learn to die and live for the other person.
To have that gift between people turned into an object, is the very basis of idolatry and sin… and there begins the whole argument about whether divorce is adultery or not.
So, is divorcing one person and marrying another adultery? – Yes!
In naming that truth, Jesus says that women are of no less value than men and that regardless of whomever divorces whomever it IS adultery and it IS a part of our brokenness. By naming that it is adultery, we can grieve the pain, repent for what has happened, and return to life in God through Christ who is pointing us back to the shared life that God created in the beginning for all human beings.
With God’s laws, we always are invited to repent, to return to God, to seek forgiveness, and to recognize our own brokenness that can only be made whole again through Christ our Lord.
That’s what Jesus is talking about…..
No longer are women or children or any group of people less valuable by the law for any reason.
We heard it read from the Book of Hebrews this morning, “Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son” (Hebrews 1:1)
God has given us Christ who makes all that which is broken whole again.