First Lesson: Job 1: 1, 2: 1-10
Responsive Reading: Psalm 26
Second Lesson: Hebrews 1: 1-4, 2: 5-12
Gospel Lesson: Mark 10: 2-16
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
Let me begin this morning with a story. A while back my dad, Grandma, and I drove down to a wedding. The wedding was for a couple friends of my sisters that I’ll call Billy and Maggie. Billy and Maggie had recently had a child together. There were family members who weren’t happy about this. My sister Anne was the Maid of Honor and I was the preacher. I remember Anne calling me beforehand asking that I don’t bring up the child to keep fanning the flames. I told Anne “What happened in the past is the past, my concern is rather Billy and Maggie’s future.” Billy and Maggie’s wedding was not the place to editorialize about all the lifestyle choices that might have rushed them quicker to that day. Billy and Maggie’s wedding was rather about people gathering together promising to walk alongside Billy and Maggie going forward.
As Dad, Grandma, and I traveled to the wedding that day. Grandma was in a foul mood. Grandma kept referring to Billy and Maggie’s child by one of her favorite bad words over and over again along with throwing out some additional inappropriate church language. Dad debated whether to keep her in the car during the ceremony if she didn’t promise to tame her tongue. Grandma had one idea in her head about how the world is supposed to work: 1. Couple meets. 2. Falls in love. 3. Gets married. 4. The couple has a beautiful baby a few years later.
Let me drive home the most important point that I will make all the morning: The World often doesn’t work like we want it to work. The Christian is going to be often called to respond to situations that they do not desire.
This morning our lesson brings us to another issue of turmoil in the church the issue of divorce. The first question for this morning is “Is divorce a sin?”
Evaluating the divorce issue causes to face a much more fundamental question of “What is sin?” Sin is everything that takes place within the world if there was no Adam, no Eve, no Serpent, no Tree. Sin is everything that takes place that God would not desire for his creation. Sin is evidence of everything that proves humanity’s imperfection. So is divorce a sin? The simplest way to answer this question is to talk to anyone who has gone through a divorce?
Divorce is painful. Divorce hurts those involved. Divorce hurts children. Divorce fractures relationships between in-laws and between friends. No one ever walks down the aisle to “Canon in D “hoping to go through a divorce. Divorce will inevitability causes all sorts of painful conversations and sleepless nights.
The issue isn’t whether divorce is right or wrong. Divorce is wrong in that it’s not what God intended for his creation. Divorce is a byproduct of the harshest of human brokenness. Most people come out of a divorce with all sorts of regrets regarding their previous decision making. People wouldn’t respond this way if divorce weren't painful to the very core of their being.
Think of the most extreme situations regarding divorce: adultery, spousal abuse, never-ending conflict, all kinds of destruction to one’s emotional or spiritual well-being.
When we consider these backgrounds than the words of Malachi 2 “God hates divorce” make sense. Not only does divorce destroy human relationships, but divorce also brings baggage that is going to affect future relationships.
Many people say Christians are too lax on divorce? That we’re hypocritical on the subject by allowing that which the Bible explicitly condemns.
We do not celebrate divorce, nor do its participants. What we say is that divorce is often the lesser evil in a particular ethical conundrum. We would never hold a party to celebrate another person’s pain. I guess, we could kick someone out of the church for not being able to maintain idealized relationships in every area of their life. We would then have to turn around and throw out everyone who has ever had a bad relationship with a boss, fractured a friendship, or even gotten mad at a Packer fan. At this point, not only would our pews by empty but we would deny our calling to proclaim forgiveness moving forward.
As we reflect on divorce this morning, we just keep coming back to the spiritual truth that human relationships are broken because humans are broken.
Today’s lesson from Mark 10 contains the teachings of Jesus on divorce. Today’s lesson includes a debate of sorts between Jesus and the Pharisees. Jesus critiques the Pharisees understanding of divorce as being too easy in Today’s passage. Only Jesus doesn’t condemn the Pharisees for the reasons that you might think. Jesus’ primary concern with the Pharisees understanding of divorce had to do with how they viewed women. In 1st Century Judea, divorce was used as a way to disrespect and dishonor women. Women were basically put on the street because they would have no means to earn a living without their husband supporting them. The Pharisees would often excuse this behavior as o.k. for any reason whatsoever. The realities of divorce for females especially were very different in 1st Century Judea then they are today. Jesus wanted to fight the power in the system.
Jesus wished to let the Pharisees know that their whole attitude on marriage was all kinds of wrong. Jesus was challenging the flawed ideas of marriage that were present within his day. So to do this Jesus took a step back to the beginning of creation itself.
“The two shall become one.”
The best book that I’ve ever read on Christian relationships is Andy Stanley’s Love, Sex, and Dating. Stanley’s hypothesis is that the reason that human relationships are so screwed up in the 21st Century has to do with screwed up power dynamics that are brought forth from previous relationships. Sex is often confused with Love. Manipulation is too often justified as a way of winning or losing the relationship. No one trusts anyone. Men are thought as out to get women, and women are considered as out to get men. Nothing is ever anybody else’s fault because it can’t be. All sorts of belief systems emerge trying to assign blame to a large percentage of the world’s populations. These situations merely speak to the brokenness or sin present in our world.
What Jesus is trying to get at though is something different. Men and women were created as different entities at the beginning of time. When I took training to facilitate pre-martial inventories for Prepare and Enrich the differences in relationship expectations between men and women when it came to physical and emotional needs kept coming up again and again. Differences between men and women should be celebrated rather than denied.
When these two entities come together in parenting, friendship, problem-solving, and togetherness, you see the highest of Christian callings being lived. We have a lot of people out there this morning that have been married 50, 55, 60, and even 65 plus years. Think of the best thing that your partner brought to your life that you wouldn’t have had if you didn’t meet them. This sentiment is at the heart of what makes marriage such a beautiful entity. We are grateful for so many bonds in our congregation this morning.
We also acknowledge that marriage doesn’t always work. Jesus knew that marriage doesn’t always work in Today’s Gospel, we then have to sort out the aftermath of human relationships in the wake of divorce. Jesus’ words remind us that we do not begin to consider either divorce or re-marriage lightly.
If divorce is bad what about remarriage?
Let me quote from the Sychar Lutheran Vision Statement-
“We will perform remarriages, not because we do not mourn divorce. We perform remarriages precisely because God gave marriage for the mutual benefit and consolation of both male and female within a fallen world.”
As with divorce, there are two possible solutions. We can either take the legal solution. We can say divorce is wrong which is true. We can say that God never intended for remarriage that’s also true. We can then say no to such remarriage requests. Christians have thought about divorce and re-marriage in these terms over the years. Plenty of people have had the book thrown at them because of their divorces. The other possible response is to remember that the world often doesn’t work like we often want it to work. We can go through life obsessing about the past. This type of behavior will only bring benefit for so long. Eventually, we admit that the past can only be given as much power as we allow it to take.
We perform remarriages because we take the words of Genesis “It is not good for the man to be alone.” Seriously, Marriage does not exist because we become spiritually pure or perfect once you enter into it. If people view Marriage as the fixing solution to everything that’s wrong with them, then there are going to be all sorts of problems. Marriage instead exists for the sake of a Christian’s vocation. Marriage has everything to do not with making a believer right in the eyes of God, but rather how a believer interacts with the world around them. So even if someone’s first marriage were an unmitigated disaster, the pastoral response should not be consigning someone to a life of isolation. Marriage exists for the purpose of protecting us and restraining us. Marriage exists for the sake of a lifelong support system, even if the first support system did not meet its intended goal. If we can give someone a second chance for a better life, then we should celebrate it.
No one is going to be a perfect person before they get married, no one is going to be a perfect person while they are married, and no one is going to be a perfect person once they leave a marriage.
As we leave this place, our understanding of marriage will speak to our understanding of God’s grace. Marriage is not Baptism nor is it Communion. Marriage is not the means by which God creates faith nor sustains eternal life. Marriage is rather something given by God for our blessing and benefit within the confines of our life. We can not and will not get this right life, in spite of the best of our intentions. Sin is why we realize that within the institution of marriage and all of human relationships in general that God has placed a cross upon them. What we remember today, our God is not about defining us by our past, but our God is rather about creating new life within our future. In the beginning, God created them male and female. In the end, God will redeem them because God saves broken people even from their broken relationships with the world around them. Amen
 Malachi 2:16
 Mark 10:2-16
 Mark 10:8
 Markquart, Ed. “Miracle of Marriage: Mark 10:2-16”. Sermons from Seattle. Web. Sept.29.2015
 Genesis 2:18