“From the Pulpit” - October 3, 2021
“From the Pulpit” – Reflections on the Weekly Texts, from Pastor Greg at Living Lord Lutheran Church, Vero Beach, FL
Some Pharisees came, and to test [Jesus] they 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 dismissal and to divorce her.” 5But Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you. 6But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ 7‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, 8and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. 9Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” 10Then in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. 11He 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.”
13People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. 14But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. 15Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” 16And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them. Mark 10:2-16
The other readings this week:
Hebrews 1:1-4, 2:5-12
Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father, and the LORD Jesus Christ.
Whoa boy...here we go again! Jesus and the temple leadership this time talking about divorce. This encounter pits Jesus (the new creation) against the temple leadership (the old creation, if you will) and the leadership tries to trick Jesus into giving an answer that would cause him to stumble. But, of course, we know Jesus would never have let that happen, and again, turns the tide on the religious establishment.
I have to reflect on what it must have been like back then to actually have been issued a "certificate of divorce", which, of course, at the time, only went to the woman, not the man. What did she do with this certificate? Post it on the wall of her house (if she even had a place to live); carry it with her as a sort of ID, indicating she's a divorcee; have it serve as a constant reminder of her "failing"? Wow.
In our regular Wednesday morning group, where we gather at 10 am to look at the lessons for the upcoming Sunday (you are all always invited. You're never behind, because we look at the lessons for the upcoming week!) in talking about divorce, how it impacts us, our families and our wider circle of friends, the question arose about how does all of this "play in Peoria", so to speak? What are the real world implications for me if I'm divorced? Is divorce a sin? How will my church regard my divorcing? First of all, does anyone reading this NOT have divorce somewhere in their immediate circle of friends or family? Probably not.
So, as good Christians, we turn to the bible to see what the bible has to say about, as the Tammy Wynette song's title says, D-I-V-O-R-C-E. I've put a YouTube link below to this song. Check it out.
So many of us view Scripture as a sort of reference guide to life, where we can go to find solutions to our everyday problems. Screeching tire noise here! While that may be partially true, it begs the wider question of how we use/interpret/understand Scripture itself. Instead, I would urge you to view Scripture as a library - a library of books about God, humanity, Jesus, and God's working in the world to reconcile humanity to God's self, and not so much as a “how to” guide to living.
The bible is not a novel. It's not like most books we buy and read, where we start at chapter 1 and read through to the end, and from it we get a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end. The Old Testament (the Hebrew bible) has 39 different books, made up of the Torah (law), the prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, etc.), some history (1, 2 Kings, etc.), the writings (Psalms, Proverbs, etc.) and others, all compiled by the church over centuries, all written by fallible human beings trying to understand and explain God's working in the world. Each writer had a unique point of view, an opinion, and lived in a real place and a real time, with real social and political issues, just like we do today. They mostly wanted to convey a point of view from their perspective, and most were conveyed in the spoken word long before they were written down.
The New Testament has a total of 27 books, including the gospels, the letters of Paul and others, and Revelation (of St. John.) These books again are written accounts of this "new creation" in which Jesus, the Messiah, has come into the world to fulfill the ancient Scriptures, to usher in the Kingdom of God. Again, they were written by real people (Jewish men), with real points of view, living in a real world with real issues confronting them. But they saw Jesus as the new Moses, the Son of God, God in human form. This makes our bible a library of 66 books. The whole of Scripture is capturing the arc of God's working in the world throughout history. God creates, humans sin and mess up, God forgives and welcomes us back, and the cycle continues. God's love for creation always reconciles humanity to himself. We ELCA Lutherans view Scripture as the “god breathed” Word of God – the inspired Word of God. Not the infallible, or the inerrant Word, but the “inspired” Word. God breathes God’s Word into fallible human beings, and it is brought forth through these chosen people.
So you may not find an index on "solving marital problems", or how to deal with financial problems, or drug problems, or how we should address gun control, or whatever other human ailment you may be dealing with at the time. Enter the church - your church, the ELCA. Here, I think, is where the rubber meets the road so to speak. It is in the ELCA's Social Statements (check out www.elca.org) and elsewhere that you can find out how the church, inspired by the Word of God, deals with real life issues. Think abortion, gun control, immigration, divorce, gay and lesbian issues, human sexuality, and more.
The church has a number of Social Statements that have been developed by us, at churchwide gatherings over the years, crafting statements from which church policy, budgeting considerations and the like are developed. I've copied a quote from the website to help give you a perspective on all of this. See below in the italics, along with the social statements developed to date by your church. You can check them out online:
ELCA social statements are teaching and policy documents that provide broad frameworks to assist us in thinking about and discussing social issues in the context of faith and life. They are meant to help communities and individuals with moral formation, discernment and thoughtful engagement with current social issues as we participate in God’s work in the world. Social statements also set policy for the ELCA and guide its advocacy and work as a publicly engaged church. They result from an extensive process of participation and deliberation and are adopted by a two-thirds vote of an ELCA churchwide assembly.
· Caring for creation / Medio ambiente (1993)
· Church in society / Iglesia en la sociedad (1991)
· The church and criminal justice / La iglesia y la justicia penal (2013)
· The death penalty / Pena de Muerte (1991)
· Economic life / Vida economica (1999)
· Education / Educación (2007)
· Genetics (2011)
· Health and health care / Salud y asistencia sanitaria (2003)
· Human sexuality / La sexualidad humana (2009)
· Peace / Por la paz (1995)
· Race, ethnicity and culture / Raza, etnicidad y cultura (1993)
Simply click on any link above, and it will take you directly to the statement you choose.
As far as divorce is concerned, paraphrasing things, the church recognizes that while marriage is instituted and ordained by God, there are times when a marriage may not be able to be sustained, especially in cases of abuse, adultery, and other causes. The statement goes on to say that there are times when, for the well being of both people, and any children, divorce may be the best option, despite the hurt and heartbreak it will cause. But God is a reconciling God, one who loves us even in our own sin and brokenness.
Amen, thanks be to God.