Blue Mountains Franciscan Church under the Care of the Ecumenical Franciscans
Sermon preached by Br. Simeon at Balkham Hills on Sunday 4th October 2015:
NINETEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST. YR B.
Gospel: Mark 10:2-16
“Because of the hardness of your hearts [Moses] wrote this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh.”
In the Name of the one God, +Father, +Son and + Holy Spirit. Amen.
Well..well… what can I say but I’d have given anything to avoid having to do the sermon for today, simply because it is a thorny issue for me and how can I do a sermon when the topic is very much where I find myself. But I’ve taken the bull by the horns and so here goes.
With nearly 50% of marriages ending in divorce these days, I am wondering how you heard our gospel text for today. It is not an easy one, that’s for sure. I don’t know if it was painful to hear Jesus say what he does about divorce and remarriage, or if it had no effect on you at all. I imagine there are many reactions to this text within this place. And I do know what my own reactions to hearing and reading and preparing this sermon is, but I won’t elaborate on it.
The question of divorce was among the most divisive issues in Jewish society. The Book of Deuteronomy (24: 1) stipulated that a husband could divorce his wife for “some indecency.” Interpretations of exactly what constituted “indecency” varied greatly, ranging from adultery to accidentally burning the evening meal. Further, the wife was regarded under the Law as the husband’s chattel, with neither legal right to protection nor recourse to seeking a divorce on her own. In Biblical times, there was little appreciation of love and commitment in marriage — marriages were always arranged in the husband’s favour, the husband could divorce his wife for just about any reason, the woman was treated little better than property. Divorce, then, was tragically common among the Jews of Jesus’ time.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus cites the Genesis account of the creation of man and woman (today’s first reading) to emphasise that husband and wife are equal partners in the covenant of marriage (“the two become one body”). The language of Genesis indicates that the Creator intends for the marriage union to possess the same special covenantal nature as God’s covenant with Israel. Jesus again appeals to the spirit of the Law rather than arguing legalities:
It is the nature of their marriage covenant that husband and wife owe to one another total and complete love and mutual respect in sharing responsibility for making their marriage succeed.
Today’s Gospel reading also includes Mark’s story of Jesus’ welcoming the little children. Again, Jesus holds up the model of a child’s simplicity and humility as the model for the servant-disciple.
Jesus appeals to his followers to embrace the Spirit of love that is the basis of God’s “law” – that we are called to act out a sense of the compassion and justice of God rather than fulfilling legalisms and detached rituals.
Marriage is more than a legal contract between two “parties” but a sacrament – a living sign of God’s presence and grace in our midst, the manifestation of the love of God, a love that knows neither condition nor limit in its ability to give and forgive.
In ending off this sermon today, I am mindful and conscious of the many wonderful couples out there who find themselves in the predicament of their marriages ending, I ask you to pray for them, uphold them and their children( if any) in your daily prayers, pray that God may strengthen them, let them know of your support for them, that they may know they are loved and valued, that God loves them no less, and that they may know they do not walk alone, for we, and God are with them in every aspect of their lives and journeys.