Summary: A sermon for the 18th Sunday after Pentecost Proper 22 A sermon about Marriage
18th Sunday after Pentecost
2 And Pharisees came up and in order to test him 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 divorce, and to put her away."
5 But Jesus said to them, "For your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment.
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 What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder."
10 And in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter.
11 And 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."
13 ¶ And they were bringing children to him, that he might touch them; and the disciples rebuked them.
14 But when Jesus saw it he was indignant, and said to them, "Let the children come to me, do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God.
15 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it."
16 And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands upon them.RSV
Grace and Peace to you from Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus who is the Christ. Amen
Our lesson from Mark this morning is a lesson which makes me and other pastors shudder. It is a passage about marriage, divorce, and adultery.
I think we can look at this passage with two different eyes. One eye of grace and the other eye of law.
The eye of the law sees this passage as one where we can feel self righteous about ourselves as we see those in our midst who have been divorced. We can point to verses 11 and 12 and say very loudly that those who divorce and remarry are committing adultery. And we can say that Jesus said this so it is true.
We can pounce on people and make them feel guilty about their broken lives. We can cast blame, we can feel morally superior, we can talk about them behind their backs. We can do all sorts of things to make ourselves feel great, them feel bad.
Or, or we can look with the eye of grace. Grace which says that though God wanted us to remain together as one, God knew of our sinfulness and knew that divorce would eventually happen. And when it does, we are to forgive, comfort and have compassion for those who have experienced this kind of brokenness in their lives.
Jesus knew that our sinful selves are not always equipped to follow through on the commitments we make.
So he says in verse 5 But Jesus said to them, "For your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment.
The hardness of your hearts--looking to your low moral state, and your inability to endure the strictness of the original law, the sinfulness in which we live brought this law about.
To put away your wives--tolerated a relaxation of the strictness of the marriage bond--not as approving of it, but to prevent still greater evils. Jesus said that Moses allowed divorce because it would prevent even greater ill, maybe the murder of the wife or husband.
As we look at these verses through the eye of grace we see that Jesus and God really wanted for us to be in a committed relationship, but at the same time they knew that because of our fallen state that was not always possible.
Anyway, to put it in simple terms, we have divorce laws because of human sinfulness. If human beings were perfect, we wouldn’t need divorce laws --we wouldn’t need any laws. We would instinctively know and follow God’s will in all that we do.
But I think Jesus is also saying in this passage as we look at it through the eyes of grace, that marriage is something that is not easy, we need to work at it. We need to make a commitment to it.
Mignon McLaughlin says "A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person."
Marriage is not something that just happens at the altar the day you get married, but marriage happens daily. We need to work at it. We need to nourish it.
There is a book by Herbert Anderson and Robert Cotton Fite, entitled "Becoming Married." I had Herbert Anderson as a professor at Seminary. He taught us about counseling.The title and the theme of the book is that "marriage"doesn’t instantly happen with the ceremony or the signing of the license.