“…Because of the hardness of your hearts…”

Thus far in my life, within my family of birth and the family that I married into

I have had no direct experience with the difficulties that divorce brings.

I have witnessed, at a distance, the pain, the shame

and the emotional distress that comes with divorce,

but it has never touched me.

That fact of my life – for which I am certainly thankful – has not blinded me to the reality

that the gospel reading chosen for this morning seems especially harsh and hurtful

to anyone who has had to make the difficult decision to end a marriage.

Life is about relationships –

good relationships; broken relationships; and those that are repaired and restored.

We have each seen enough of every kind to know the difficulties and the joys that come –

and our faith declares that God not only created us for relationship,

but intends for all those to be, in the words of the first chapter of Genesis – “very good”.

This is the context for Jesus showdown with the teachers of the Law in Mark’s gospel.

“Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”they ask,

driving right to the heart of societal relationships – family bedrock; husband and wife –

how do you understand the law, Jesus? What does God say about this foundational relationship?

The Law, of course, says yes – divorce is an acceptable legal option for the people of God.

The Pharisees know it. Jesus knows it too.

But the law was for your weakness, Jesus says – “because of your hardness of heart” –

he implies that God had something else in mind,

not just for marriage, but for all human relationships –

he quotes Genesis as his authority – “the two shall be one flesh” –

and that, as they say, should be that.

The Pharisees fade into the background.

The friends of Jesus, however, cannot let the subject die.

This is where the text gets testy – this is where people begin to squirm in their seats –

this is where some preachers might launch into a family values rampage

about the sanctity of marriage and the evils of divorce.

But I don’t believe the text supports a message like that.

I believe in the sanctity of marriage – but I also understand that some marriages aren’t at all sacred,

that there are hurts that cannot be mended – relationships that should not be maintained

for the good and safety of all concerned.

Jesus stand – seeming so fierce and unwavering – is painting a bigger picture –

for clearly our idea of what works is not at all as God intended –

and the text seeks to open our eyes as it moves along.

For there is a sudden change of tone here –

from the seemingly judgmental statement equating divorce and adultery –

to announce that there were people bringing children to be blessed.

They could be two separate days in the life of Jesus and his disciples

but Mark’s author places them side by side – the topic is still relationship.

The disciples hearts are hardened toward the needs of these children.

Those who bring them are chastised –

the disciples contend that Jesus has more important things to deal with.

Some relationships must be more important – others, not worth pursuing.

But Jesus is having none of their nonsense.

Let the children come – know that the Kingdom is theirs –

And he blessed them.

Our intention for most of our relationships are good – honourable.

We don’t intend for them to fail, but fail they do.

Jesus draws our attention to these children – to ideas of innocence, trust,

and a time when we are willing and able to believe the best about everyone (and everything).

Come to God’s kingdom like this, Jesus says, and you will find the doors open to you.

Come to one another in simplicity and honesty,

and your relationships will succeed more often than they fail.

Come to God – without agenda or condition –

come expecting to be amazed, to be welcomed,

to be comforted, to be fed, to experience wonder – and you will never be disappointed.

God has not made us for brokenness, but for wholeness

not for sadness, but for joy.

Not for solitude, but for community –

and so we are invited by the Spirit of God – by the words of Jesus –

to open ourselves to a relationship that is honest, pure, and filled with wonder –

a relationship with God – with one another – revealed to us by Jesus

who invites us today to approach his table with wonder and joy.

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