10/7/2018 Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost The text is Mark 10:2-16, Gen 2:18-24.
Grace and peace to you from God, our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Today’s passage from Mark is one in which most pastors want to give a wide berth, because when we read it, we all know that we have to preach on the touchy and painful subjects of divorce and remarriage.
Now divorce isn’t anything new. Even during the time of Moses a law was developed which allowed a man to divorce his wife. Only a man could divorce back then for the patriarchal society of ancient years, women were merely the property of a man – unequal in rights, unequal in humanity. Of course, this was not in accordance with God’s plan when man and woman were created.
In the beginning, God created man to fulfill the role of caring for all of God’s creation. But, according to Genesis 2, the man was all alone in this role. And no matter how many animals God created, no suitable partner was found to relieve the loneliness that the man was experiencing. God saw that this isolation and loneliness was not good for the man, so God caused a sleep to fall over him. And out of the man, God created a woman as man’s helper.
In the helping role, the woman was never meant to be subordinate to the man – being the kept woman, barefoot and pregnant. The woman was never meant to be the property of the man. The Hebrew word used for the role of the woman shows that the woman was to be the rescuer or deliverer of the man, one as mighty as an army. This helper who was greater than the man became equal to the man in that she was of the same flesh. She was meant to stand beside the one who needed her and in a relationship of mutual support. The two, in a sense, were to form an alliance and their allegiance to each other was to be so strong that the two become one flesh.
This is the relationship that God entrusted to us in the beginning. But, somehow, through the years, the relationship became distorted and the woman became property. So, when the Pharisees asked Jesus about the lawfulness of divorce, Jesus decided to focus his attention on the relationship of marriage rather than the law created out of the reality of brokenness.
In a perfect world, men and women will support each other throughout their lifetime and there will be no divorce. In a perfect world, the relationship that God created for man and woman would be fulfilled. In a perfect world, there would be no pain of separation, no wandering eyes, no lives going in different directions. But, we are not a perfect people and because we are not, we suffer from broken relationships, crushed commitments and self-serving actions.
Jesus does not whitewash the destructive power of sin when it comes to divorce, nor does he ignore the pain involved in a broken relationship. Jesus is blunt. The legality of divorce is not an issue for a divorce is simply a piece of paper which points to our imperfection in fulfilling God’s intent for us. The personal, emotional and relational consequences of this imperfection last a life time. Just ask someone who has suffered from a divorce and he or she will tell you of the pain of living in a bad marriage and/or the pain of the breakup.
Divorce has touched all our lives in one way or another. We have either been divorced or know someone who has been divorced. It is a form of death. A piece of us dies when the relationship is torn asunder for it is the tearing of flesh from flesh. It is painful whether it comes after years of abuse or as a result of mutual agreement.
But what about remarriage? Is it forbidden? I, myself, am a product of a remarriage, and as I grew in years, I asked my parents about their former relationships. My father had been married twice before taking vows with my mother and my mother had been married once before that time. My father had divorced cheating spouses and my mother divorced a man who as a result of WII became an indigent alcoholic. When my parents married, my father was ready to try again. He was marrying his childhood sweetheart. But, my mother was still carrying a torch for her former husband. That’s why she wanted to name me Rae – that was her first husband’s middle name.
It’s very difficult, if not impossible, to refrain from carrying something from the first relationship into another. For, in marriage, your life is so entwined with another that it is impossible to remove that relationship from your very being. In marriage, we are changed, and that change becomes part of who we are. This is why Jesus says, “whoever divorces his wife and married another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and married another, she commits adultery.” The former husband or former wife cannot be removed from our psyche any more than the past can be relived.
So what do we do? In a perfect world, there would be no divorce. For, we would have no choice in picking our spouse as there would only be one male or female available to us. But we live in a crowded world and in the real world, over 50% of marriages in the US end in divorce. Does that mean that God wants us to be isolated and alone because the relationship we entered into full of hope and promise just didn’t work?
We know that God’s heart breaks for us whenever a relationship ends so far from what God intends for us. And we also know that from the beginning, God never intended for us to be alone and isolated. Yet Jesus makes it clear that while divorce is legal, it is a visible sign of the broken relationship we have with him and each other. Thank God, that God comes up with a solution. For, through the suffering, death and resurrection of Christ our Lord that broken lives are restored. Through God’s grace and forgiveness, the slate is wiped clean, and broken relationships and broken lives are healed.
We need this grace and mercy in order to try again. We need God’s healing touch to make it through the pain of tearing flesh and broken promises. We need something more than pity, guilt, self-justification, and feel-good excuses. We need to recognize what happened and admit our failures as we turn to the Lord of life for comfort and forgiveness. His grace will see us through, wipe away our sin and give us a clean slate in order to try again to find a life-time partner and helper. For we are imperfect people living in a world of sin, and many of us will not have the marriage that God intended from the beginning. Broken hearts and broken relationship exist. Pain abounds in this world of ours while mercy and grace are just a prayer away.
In his mercy and grace, God sees that it is not good for us to be alone and so he continues to bind people together in relationships of mutual love and support. If the one we choose the first time around is not the right one with whom we can form that unique and special relationship, then it is better for us to admit it and move on, trusting that God will forgive us, bless us and support us as we try again.
May you turn to the Lord in your distress and be comforted, and may our God of grace enable you to find the one who is truly flesh of your flesh and bone of your bone. And may the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.