Pentecost 2018 (Proper 22) – “What God Joined Together…” Mark 10:2-16

Pentecost 2018 (Proper 22) – “What God Joined Together…” Mark 10:2-16

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen

The text for our sermon meditation is from the Gospel account of St Mark, the 10th Chapter.

2 Pharisees came up and in order to test [Jesus] asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”

3He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” 4They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.” 5And Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. 6But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ 7‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, 8and they shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. 9What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

10And in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. 11And he said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her, 12and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

So far the reading.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

We are prone to breaking things.  Regardless of how valuable things are or how well we try to protect them, objects around the house get broken.  Kids playing with a ball in the living room will break lamps or even the television.  Traffic laws are broken when we determine our personal time line is more important that the posted speed. I have trouble with glass objects. Some glass coffee pots and wedding gifts my wife and I received ended up in pieces.  This was through either direct or indirect contact with my hands.  What have you broken?

Our Lord teaches us of something very precious to him that we have broken.  It may not be with our hands, but perhaps with our looking the other way or remaining silent when this precious gift was placed before us.  Jesus speaks to us about breaking the bonds of marriage.

Today we are led to think of such a relationship as no big deal.  Marriage is a matter of convenience that is for the most part optional.  As long as a couple love each other and decide to live together, who needs the piece of paper?  However, if a couple does get the piece of paper, then there is always the option of going to a judge to erase the commitment that was made.  We were too young.  We were not compatible.  We fell out of love.  I loved you but I was not in love with you.  We just couldn’t get along.

Today we are led to think that the marriage relationship is not to be limited a man and a woman.  If two men love each other, or two women love each other then what is wrong with them getting married.  It is our right granted by the constitution of the United States to live with and marry whomever we want.

It seems quite appropriate at this time to speak concerning such a precious relationship as marriage.  The readings from Genesis and Mark persist in calling us to account for our stewardship of such a precious relationship.  For this relationship is the most intimate relationship that is entered into by a man and a woman.  Jesus makes this quite clear when he quotes the word of God from Genesis saying, “6But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, 8and they shall become one flesh.’”

We break this one flesh relationship with our attitudes and our actions.  The Pharisees give evidence of this when they question Jesus regarding divorce.  Their intent is to find reason to bring judgment against Jesus for transgressing the Law of Moses and also to justify themselves regarding their attitude and practice concerning divorce.  In seeking to bring judgment against Jesus, they try to trap him in speaking against the Law of Moses.  Our Lord knows this ruse and begins to address their intentions with a question concerning the Law of Moses.  “What did Moses command you?” Jesus says.

This question of Jesus gets to the heart of the discussion.  It lays bare the motives and understanding of the Pharisees.  They were teachers of the Law of Moses and were experts in this law.  They are able to speak with well-founded reason and articulate the meaning of the law according to their human reason.  They respond that Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send his wife away.  These words fulfill the low threshold of offense taken by the husband at his wife’s inability to please him.

Our Lord takes the Pharisees to task.  He condemns their unbelief and hardness of heart, literally their stubbornness to believe they are in any way sinning.  Jesus takes these teachers of the law from where they are and brings them back to the very words of God spoken to Adam and Eve at creation.  “6But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ 7‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, 8and they shall become one flesh.’”

So then what is it that is broken by the sinful will of man with regard to marriage?  There are three things for which God created man and women.  Yes, God created man and woman to have authority over creation.  But specifically with regard to marriage the three things are these.  First, there is companionship.  Man was created by God to be a social creature.  Second, man and woman were created to helpmeets one of the other.  Third, man and woman were given the command of God to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.  Simply put man is to marry a woman for companionship and mutual help, and, if the Lord wills and blesses them, to give birth to children. This is the Biblical teaching regarding marriage.

Man in his sinfulness breaks this commandment when hardness of heart enters the relationship.  Governments show this hardness of heart when they transgress divine reason and revelation for the ever shifting desires of the people.  Men break this commandment when they seek to pursue marriage outside the bounds set by God.  Likewise women also break this commandment when they pursue marriage outside the bounds set by God. Perhaps it can be summed up in the words of a once popular country western song “Looking for love in all the wrong places ….”

Men marrying men and women marrying women breaks this relationship intended by God to fulfill His purpose.  By nature such relationships are not true God-pleasing companionships or helpmeets.  Neither do these relationships allow for the procreation of children within the God-ordained relationship of marriage.  Children in a marriage are to issue from husband and wife, male and female.  It matters little that modern medicine can make two women appear to fulfill this plan of God.  Two women cannot naturally conceive any children.  The same is true for two men.  Such a thing is impossible.

To such thinking the Lord cries out for repentance and restoration to truth.  The writer to the Hebrews said “Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.” Our Lord questioned the Pharisees to reveal what was in their hearts, that they be brought to repentance and faith in the Son of God.  Our Lord puts these same questions to us that we live in repentance and faith in the Son of God. For, repentance is the problem for us.

Rebellion against God is inherited.  King David wrote, “I was sinful from birth, in sin did my mother conceive me.”  St Paul wrote “sin entered the world through one man and death through sin, in this way death spread to all because all sinned.”  We give evidence of this sin by failing to live in repentance and forgiveness.  Husband and wife, unmarried men and women, children, pastors, teachers we all give evidence of our sinful desire to rebel when we fail to acknowledge our failure to confess our sin or refuse to speak words of forgiveness to those who sin against us.

Our Lord died that we might learn this truth and live in this truth.  He suffered the impenitence and unbelief of the whole world as he let the scourge tear at his flesh and nails pierce his hands and feet.  Every act of our rebellion Jesus bore in his body on the altar of the cross.  All this, to restore what we break and heal what we infect with our misguided thinking and actions.

Such healing begins in the water of Holy Baptism.  In that washing we are united with our Savior Jesus Christ.  He first restores our hearts and minds to see and acknowledge our breaking of God’s gifts to us.  He takes the pieces of our broken lives and puts them right again.     He renews our thinking and grants us faith that we walk in His righteousness and salvation. As the writer to the Hebrews says, “9But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. 10For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.”

God brought us to glory by His grace in Jesus Christ.  Walking in that glory, that is living in repentance and faith, we daily seek the healing power of God who heals our diseases and redeems our lives from the pit of eternal death.  Walking in that glory, that is living in obedience and faith, we strive to fulfill God’s will for our lives.  This means walking as redeemed men and women according to the order of creation and living in the image of God.  We rejoice in our salvation giving thanks to God for His mercy.

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen