Sermons from Rev Canon Dr Ian Davies
Sunday 4th October
Mark 10: 2-16
Boy did people ever love trying to get Jesus in a pickle! And the controversial, politically dangerous question (at least for the time) that Mark records in his Gospel account must have taken a lot of hard and cunning planning to devise. Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?
The issue of divorce was controversial because there were several schools of thought about what constituted grounds for divorce – and the Pharisees wanted to trap Jesus into taking sides.
As so often happened in exchanges with the religious authorities that get progressively more serious and aggressive, Jesus avoids getting trapped (he doesn’t allow himself to be shaped by their understanding and intentions – their agenda). And what he offers here is a radically deeper understanding of marriage.
He asks them to quote the law (from Deuteronomy chapter 24) and then reminds them of God’s intention for marriage going right back to creation in Genesis:
· that marriage isn’t a legal contract that can be broken,
· it’s meant to be a gift of grace in which lives are lived mutually in compassion
· and lives joined in this way cannot be separated by appealing to loopholes and legalities.
Jesus reminds them (and us) that laws allowing for divorce were given to help us because of our own human failings, our utter inability to live faithfully in covenant love and commitment to each other (as he’d always intended). So Jesus pushes their understanding of marriage - as a loving commitment, a mutual covenant. This is how highly God values relationships – because his very Being as Trinity is relational.
So we can say with some certainty that this passage is not meant to hold us hostage to damaging and dangerous relationships, but rather to encourage us to honour and uphold mutual love and respectful, committed relationships.
To allow divorce because our hearts have become too hard to recognize God the Trinity at work in our relationships is certainly not the only way in which we fail to understand why God created us Jesus came to rescue us (ransom us, buy us back) because the world can no longer find its own way back to God – and over and over again he tries to excite people with a vision of God’s reality that blows apart our restrictions, our fears of losing control.
Human religiosity has always been, instinctively, an attempt to harness God (says Jane Williams – and I’m quoting...).
“What we long for from God is security and certainty. But the problem is that we look for that in places that are actually not God. Our security lies in the fact that we are utterly beloved by God, and that he wills for us to share his life, in his image. But we are constantly trying to bargain with God. ‘If I do this, this and this, will you promise me a long and happy life? What Jesus is saying is that negotiating about when God will allow us to break his image in us without minding too much - is (just plain) stupid. Of course we will break it, over and over again...as we crucified his Son. But if we catch something of the vision of the nature of God and his purpose for us, then the whole debate can be conducted on different grounds. It will no longer be our aim to justify ourselves in God’s eyes, but to see how we can bring him our broken lives for healing.”
And what does this have to do with children? The disciples are treating the children as a problem – anxious to stop them pestering Jesus. Here he is in the middle of a serious, controversial (adult) debate that could have huge consequences and the disciples are uneasy about everything that’s happening – and now these children come barging in.
(A recipe for chaos?) No - Jesus sees them as a gift. With all our adult complications and complexities; our questions and our anxieties, our expectations and hurts - is it too simplistic to say that children will inherit the kingdom because it never occurs to then that they won’t? They don’t expect to earn it (it’s we who get hung up with that) – the children have simply sensed that they give Jesus joy?
Oh if we could just think – that every time we meet in his name and seek his face he is filled with joy – it would change how we come to worship and what we do when we meet. It would transform our relationships with each other.
So Jesus’ all-inclusive love reaches not only to adult tax collectors and sinners (the Gospel writers are telling us), but to little children – who are so often neglected, abused or ignored by ‘grown-up’ society. This is so revolutionary: that to fully participate in the kingdom of God, we will need to teach – and learn from – the children in our midst.
What has God done in Christ to make all things new?? Did you catch the wonderful reading from Hebrews? Here’s the Message version as I finish:
Going through a long line of prophets, God has been addressing our ancestors in different ways for centuries. Recently he spoke to us directly through his Son. By his Son, God created the world in the beginning, and it will all belong to the Son at the end. This Son perfectly mirrors God, and is stamped with God’s nature. He holds everything together by what he says...
And the Son Is (even) Higher than Angels
3-6 After he finished the sacrifice for sins, the Son took his honoured place high in the heavens right alongside God, far higher than any angel in rank and rule. ....(in fact) angels worship him
God didn’t put angels in charge of this business of salvation that we’re dealing with here.....In (his) death, by God’s grace, Jesus fully experienced death in every person’s place.
It makes good sense that the God who got everything started and keeps everything going now completes the work by making the Salvation Pioneer perfect through suffering as he leads all these people to glory. Since the One who saves and those who are saved have a common origin, Jesus doesn’t hesitate to treat them (us) as family...
....he’s not ashamed to call us brothers and sisters
What are mortals that God should be mindful of them? Mere human beings that He should seek them out?
(Answer): God sent his only Son to seek and save those who are lost. For God so loved the world that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. Alleluia.