Sermon: October 5, 2003
School for Deacons
Proper 22, Year B
Psalm 8 or 128
Hebrews 2:(1-8)9-18; Mark 10:2-9
Genesis 2: 24 Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh.
Mark 10: 5 But Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you. . .
8b So they are no longer two, but one flesh.
9 Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
Hebrews 2: 11 For the one who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father. . . 18 Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.
I. When I read the Gospel for today, I thought surely this is some cruel joke. What on earth could I have to say about this reading?
a. Most recently divorced in the chapel
b. Thought it was a good idea, the best thing
c. Went to pains to do it well
d. Most difficult decision of my life, really did believe in “til death do us part, ” that it was a covenant with God as much as with each other, “what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
II. The readings:
a. Genesis – they become one flesh
b. Mark – “Is it okay to divorce? Moses said a man could write a certificate and dismiss his wife.” Jesus quotes Genesis, “what God has joined, let no one separate.”
c. Hebrews – not much consolation after the fact – ‘cause Jesus was tested, he can help me when I’m being tested. . .
III. What is Jesus saying?
a. Jews had a law that said a man could divorce his wife. Listen to language – legal, contractual. “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her.”
b. Jesus says NO.
c. Marriage is NOT simply a legal contract.
d. And it is for life.
e. Effect – women and men are equal before God, one flesh. She’s not property, like animal or piece of furniture. Can’t be returned to the store if defective.
IV. “What God has joined together, let no one separate.”
a. Misinterpreted – not a command, but statement of fact
b. If you’ve been divorced, you know, the bond lasts forever.
c. My parents – 30 years ago. Father still furious. Sad that is how bond is expressed, but undeniable that bond is there.
V. But I think Jesus is also saying something much broader
a. Seems legalistic, but Jesus is not legalistic, so what is this?
b. Pointing to the ideal, pushing us beyond what works in this world, what works for society, forcing us to look at deeper reality.
c. Jesus is saying, “look beyond what works here in this world, that is not the point, look to God’s will, whether or not you are able to fulfill it. This should be your standard, this should be your focus.”
d. Divorce sometimes is the best decision WE can make. But it’s not THE best decision. It may be the best thing in THIS world, but it is not the best thing in the reign of God. It may be OUR best, but it is not GOD’s best.
e. Jesus wants us to keep our eyes on God’s best. God’s will.
VI. This applies elsewhere
a. We create laws and systems and structures that are the best we can do here and now.
b. When we create them, we often know that this is not really the BEST solution, but just the best we can do, the best for now.
c. Then we forget. We lose sight of the real goal.
d. Yes, providing a hot meal and a warm bed for a homeless person is good. Multiple service centers where they can get treatment and help with SSI or housing and job search are even better, probably the best these days.
e. We do this for years and we forget. Homelessness is NOT okay. Everyone deserves food, shelter and clothing. We live in community in order to care for each other.
f. Or – we created medicine to heal ourselves, to lessen pain, to prolong life. We have systems, procedures, technology, an enormous body of knowledge.
g. In the United States, we will prolong life far beyond our ability to heal a person and often cause or intensify pain rather than relieve it. We forget that every human being deserves dignity. We forget that we are not God.
VII. Jesus tells us:
a. Yes, you have a law that makes things work here on earth.
b. It is convenient.
c. It is neat, tidy, lessens conflict.
d. But it is human. It is a product of human weakness and it addresses human weakness.
e. I call you to human strength. I call you to remember God’s will. I call you to keep your eyes on the deeper reality, even if you cannot live up to the ideal. Don’t forget.
f. Work towards that. Work to create heaven on earth, not effective human systems.
VIII. An important message for Deacons:
a. We tend to be very practical
b. Our job is to make things work
c. Even as we do the best WE can, we must remember what God calls us to.
IV. Lest this frighten you – know that in your heart, knowing God’s will, remembering God’s will is often not at all difficult
a. I leave you with this poem from St. Teresa of Avila:
I had tea yesterday with a great theologian,
and he asked me.
“What is your experience of God’s will?”
I liked that question—
for the distillation of thought hones thought in others.
clarity, I know, is freedom.
What is my experience of God’s will?
Everyone is a traveler. Most all need lodging, food,
I let enter my mouth what will enrich me. I wear what
will make my eye content,
I sleep where I will
wake with the
all my mind can
What is God’s will for a wing?
Every bird knows