Monday, October 05, 2009

Sermon - Pentecost 18 - Mark 10:1-16

Pentecost 18 – October 4th, 2009
Mark 10:1-16
“What God Joins Together”

It's no secret that we've had a lot of discussion around here lately about marriage and divorce. I want to remind you first of all that we pastors don't select the readings for today based on our preferences, but on a pre-determined system called a lectionary. These readings, and this Gospel reading about marriage and divorce – are the appointed readings for today.

It's also no secret that we live in a culture that increasingly accepts divorce as a part of life. Hardly anyone promotes it as a good thing, but many have become as accepting of it as they have so many other sins. Can you remember the time when it was socially unacceptable? Can you remember when it was something to whisper about? “They're getting a divorce”. It used to be that way.

But today, many sins which were once kept secret are no longer so. We've become numb to the outrage and disgust over sin that God still knows. Sin's not a big deal to us, but it still is to God.

Sure divorce is legal, according to the civil law. It was the same in Jesus' time. A certificate could be written, the deed was done, it was all neat and clean – and Moses approved of it. Well, not really, Jesus said. He said Moses was accommodating to hardness of heart. He didn't want women to be abandoned and victimized by husbands who would leave them informally. At least with a formal decree, or certificate, the woman who was divorced would be free to remarry, and a new husband might provide for her.

But that's never how it was meant to be. Jesus appeals to a higher authority, a deeper order – the order of God's creation. And no matter what the pharisees thought about divorce, and no matter how legal or socially acceptable it is today, Jesus taught the truth that God never intended it. And he still doesn't. “What God has joined together, let man not separate”

Sometimes we do separate – from God, and from each other. But that's always the result of sin. When a marriage fails, it's because of sin. And sin is never God's will.

Interesting that God creates us male and female. That he takes great pains to show that we are “of the same stuff”, the woman is taken out of the man's rib. And when united again in the one-flesh union of marriage, what was separated is back together again. God tells us to be fruitful and multiply, and the one-flesh union finds a special expression in our offspring. Children bring husband and wife together, literally, in the flesh. They are part mom and part dad.

And all these deep mysteries of marriage have much to teach us about the eternal marriage of Christ, and of his church. Each of us is part of that entity – the body of Christ, his eternal bride.

We sing about it in our hymnody - “The Church's One Foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord” “From heaven he came and sought her to be his holy bride” “With his own blood he bought her, and for her life he died”.

It's a marriage not made in heaven, but created in paradise – when God and his people were perfectly united. But the bride was unfaithful. We fell for another. And when Adam and Eve chose to adulterate their perfect relationship with God, they ran off with the devil and into sin and death.

Throughout history God would call his wayward people to repentance. He would call his bride to return. And at times they would. He went to great lengths to save them from slavery, from disaster, and from their foes. But time and again would they also turn away – adulterating themselves with false Gods like Baal and Asherah and Moloch. God even had a prophet, Hosea, take a prostitute as a wife to demonstrate in person the promiscuity of the Israelites. Sometimes they listened, sometimes they didn't. Sometimes there was repentance and mercy, other times, judgment.

But this ongoing cycle of repentance and grace was driving toward something, leading up to someone. It all found fulfillment in the joining in the flesh of God and man, in Jesus Christ, the Savior. He came to finally re-unite what man had put assunder in the Garden, and put assunder by his sin so many times since. Jesus came to reconcile us to himself, and to his Father. He came as the Bridegroom, preaching repentance and forgiveness. And he loved his beloved with a love that even faced death, but could not be conquered by death.

Maybe your marriage is happy and secure. Give thanks to God for such a gift. Maybe your marriage is troubled and suffering. Turn to God for help (and the resources he gives you) that it would not be torn assunder! Maybe you are single or a widow or a person too young to marry – no matter. You are still part of the bride, the object of Christ's eternal dying and undying love. And he calls you to be faithful as he is faithful to you.

His ultimate sacrifice is the basis for our self-sacrificing love of our spouse and of our neighbor. His forgiveness of all our adulterous ways gives us a reason to forgive each other for the many wrongs we do.

He joins us together – husband to wife in holy marriage until death do they part. He joins us together – sinners to himself in an eternal marriage which not even death can tear apart. And he joins us together with each other as a body – his people – in a mystic sweet communion of saints, eating together at his table, sealed as his children – members of one family - in our baptism.

As Christians, therefore we are our brother's and sister's keeper. We care about them, body and soul. We help them when and how we can, loving them as Christ loves us. Sometimes it's a word of encouragement, sometimes a word of warning. Sometimes we lend our ear and our shoulder to cry on. Always we pray.

One with God, One with one another. Let no one separate what God has joined together in Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

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