Grace and Peace to you,
My sisters and brothers in Christ
As we find these Scriptures puzzling
We will find in the midst of the law,
The Love that flows from the risen Christ,
To be in the Kingdom of God
Because of God
This past week has been one of contradictions
One moment we are experiencing Psalm 8
Unfurling before us in the night skies
Captured in an autumn red moon
“O Lord, O Lord,
How majestic is your name in all the earth.”
We gravitate towards one another in community
We experience God’s Love radiating throughout our very being,
These are not signs of destruction
But a reminder,
That our relationship with the Creator God
Can never be broken
We find that our jubilation and our praising
Turns to weeping and lamenting
There is this sense of abandonment, perhaps
We are called to love one another
Forgive one another
Practicing restitution and restoring those who have fallen away,
Even those who have broken the law,
(share with the congregation about Tuesday evening, where I had gathered with my community @ Seminary to light candles and pray for a woman who had done just that, who had broken one of the ten commandments collaborated to murder her spouse and now faced death herself. So why were we praying for her, and others like her. Because as she confessed her sins, she’d worked very hard to give of herself to those around her sharing that prisoned space, Kelly wanted to remind them that Jesus Christ still claimed all of them!)
And on that night, we searched the Scriptures,
Sung a hymn
Jesus remember me,
When you come into your kingdom,
Jesus remember me,
When you come into your kingdom
These words from a thief to Jesus,
Not wanting this total separation
From the Light of God
Because of the sins he had committed
Wanting to know that in the midst of chaos
And his broken existence
That he still was loved!
Do we find ourselves singing this hymn
When we too are faced with our own sins?
When we have nothing else that we are able to cling to
Because as shortcomings and faults are uncovered,
It throws a community into turmoil
Divorce, to some, for example
Is a sin
does this word vibrate throughout our being.
(Share with the congregation about the movie, The Women where the lead character was on a train bound for Reno, as portrayed in many of the movies of that era, where women would go to get a divorce. She would encounter many women who were on their 2nd, 3rd, or 4th divorce; they would put on this air of being nonchalant about the entire matter and false cheeriness; they gave advice about only marrying for the tangible, the material; that her mistake had been she married for love.”)
But isn’t that what Jesus is teaching them in this moment?
(Talk about we as people of faith, having to remember that marriage for ancient people was not about love-even as God had commanded them, to love. Marriage was about giving away property-women were not seen as fully human; marriage was about aligning oneself and one’s family or tribe with someone more powerful, so that you could be guaranteed a position in society)
So Jesus had to remind them that their ancestors hearts
They forgot the teaching
That what God has joined together
No one can separate
Is that commandment too easy for them and for us?
Is this why throughout our Old Testament,
There is further explanation, further laws
Interpreted and crafted by human hands?
Because we, and understandably get so frustrated
Exasperated with one another
In those sacred relationships
In our marriages
We are quick to throw up our hands and say
Yet in the same breath
We are ashamed and painfully withdraw
There is that contradiction again,
We sit in the midst of our faith community
We hear Jesus saying these words
And we find ourselves, wedged in
Stuck between the pages of the law
“Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”
But Jesus is not condemning individuals in this moment
Think about this path that Jesus has been on
Jesus has been traveling,
Telling the disciples about his death,
They in turn are arguing about who is the greatest
Jesus teaches them about servanthood,
And letting those who are the most vulnerable,
The least of these
Are welcome first into the Kingdom of God,
And Jesus expresses this again,
Reminding them that welcoming
Those without homes,
Without someone to love them fully
Those who question their humanity,
Questioning if they are worthy to serve
In that Faith community, in the church!
On a committee, as a deacon or church council
Simply because they feel their sins
Deny them from living out God’s mission
When we welcome them in,
We are welcoming in Jesus Christ!
Because Jesus is in the midst of a community that is not perfect
That is full of people who are at risk
Who have committed crimes
Who have broken the law
Who struggle to love
Who are not perfect
Our Gospel text is not about
condemning people who were divorced!
It splits apart both family and community
Everyone is impacted
Two people who perhaps we have watched grow
Blossom into one
Have been torn
And we can’t mend them back together.
And sometimes that is even not appropriate
because sometimes it is the only answer,
so that people can heal from toxic situations
and breathe in the restorative love of God
The Pharisees were testing Jesus!
-we miss that phrase right there;
The Pharisees wanted to pick Jesus’s brain,
Figure Him out
So they could break Him down,
for the charlatan that they assumed Jesus was.
But see the Good News is
Jesus deflects this question of the law
And instead turns this towards the subject of relationship
Our relationships with one another
Should not be based
or even economic security.
Our relationships are interwoven
A community of imperfection
of the helpless,
Of the vulnerable
of sinners, like us, beloved!
And the Good News
is that when the wider society
stamps rejection on our foreheads
Jesus is not ashamed of us!
Jesus embraces us, no matter what!
Because Jesus has already served our sentence
Has removed the sting of sin,
Has delivered us from death itself!
How countercultural the Gospel is-
That regardless of who we are,
Or who we love
Or how we struggle
Or what commandments we have broken
We are LOVED, NO MATTER WHAT!
And here, among this church community,
Is a place
Where we find peace, mercy and GRACE.