Summary: Combining Pastoral Care skills with the scripture on divorce allows us to meet the parishioner/seeker where they are, encourage them to be authentic with who they are, and bring themselves wholly to God. The next step would be be a refelection of God’s l
There is a group of new Pastors who are keeping in touch with one another this year via e-mail. We check-in and see how things are going. We talk about ideas for children’s sermons and compare life in the parish to what we learned in the classroom.
It’s a helpful way to enter into a new profession, to have a group of friends and peers there for support. As we chatted away about preaching this week, everyone had a variation of “let the little children come to me” Great to preach about, I said, but the reading is mostly about divorce. “Oh, I can’t preach on that.” The replies came. There was a general consensus that preaching on divorce is a sure way to ruin your career and that even the senior pastor would get fired for preaching on such a thing.
A similar thing happened this week around the office. People would stop by the church for this or that, a meeting, choir,,, and they would ask “So Pastor, what are you preaching on this week?” “Divorce” I would say simply. The reaction was always the same. **GRIMACE** **SHOCK** **DISBELIEF**
These reactions are understandable. Divorce can be a messy and painful experience. I suppose there was a time where divorce was infrequent and isolated. But now it is hard to find someone who hasn’t been touched by divorce. Our parents, our friends, our brothers or sisters, our children, or even ourselves, have had the unfortunate and unpleasant experience of divorce. Growing up in the 70’s and 80’s, I remember that the kid who stuck out was not the kid whose parents were divorced, but the kid whose parents were married!
To say that divorce or separation is unpleasant is often an understatement. Sure, there are the Hollywood divorces, citing “Irreconcilable differences.” But frequently there have been issues of mistrust at best and abuse at worst. When you hear the word “Divorce” what comes into your mind? Seeing those you love go through the experience, or remembering having gone through it yourself. My parents are divorced, and for me the first thing that I think of when I hear the word “Divorce” is “Custody Battle” For all of us, these memories are Painful both emotionally and physically.
I think that these memories become painful for us spiritually as well when we hear the words of Jesus say that Divorce equals adultery. Here we are in the place that is supposed to provide us with solace, a place that is supposed to provide us with positive and wholesome human relationships, and most importantly a place where we have a relationship with a loving God. Yet Jesus is telling us that our actions violate one of the commandments.
It’s no wonder that people avoid preaching about this topic. When you consider all of our personal history, our memories, our issues, our baggage about divorce,,,, hearing these words from the lectionary and the pulpit can seem almost caustic, almost toxic.
But is that how Jesus is saying it, or is that how we are hearing it?
Let’s not take Jesus out of context.
When the Pharisees come to him and ask him about divorce, Jesus doesn’t give them an answer, but asks them a question in return. What did Moses tell you? Well, Moses said it was o.k. and allowed us to write a certificate of divorce. Jesus says that while Moses allowed it, God never intended it to be that way. We heard the same passage from Genesis this morning that Jesus quotes. And it’s not a passage about marriage. It’s the story of creation. God created the world, created people, created animals. God brought the animals to the people and said “Are any of these a good companion, a good helper?” And despite the dogs and cats, birds and fish, lizards and snakes [all of which are good pets] there was none to be found. So God created in us the need to be with one another, the desire for closeness to another human being, the sense of having a “better half” that makes two people a whole.
In a similar way, let’s not take our own lives out of context.
Unless there was a shotgun involved, most weddings do not happen without a little bit of falling in love. There is dating, there is courting, there is the feeling of being in love. “In the Beginning” it was good. “In the Beginning” it was as God intended it to be. Which is probably why the memories of the divorce and separation are so painful. Because we loved the person, or we know that the people loved one another. The same is true for our friendships, our work relationships, and our relationships with other family members. We care about the person, or the project at work, or the team so much. We are committed.