20 Pentecost Proper 22 Oct 7 2018 Audio
The gospel of Mark just keeps getting tougher. Here we have words that fall on our ears in all sorts of ways, depending on where we have been in life. But I want you to remember again; Mark is very concerned about what it means to follow Jesus. Mark is showing us what that looks like, and following Jesus is not necessarily easy.
Jesus announces the coming of God's kingdom, and Jesus brings to us the embodiment of the kingdom. So this passage from Mark tells us much more about God than it tells us about ourselves, and it tells us about our role as disciples. It tells us about who God is, who we are, and how we are to relate to God and to one another. Again Jesus is saying and doing something radical. Here Jesus shows us that relationship matters. Jesus is saying that relationships with God, and with others, matter. Indeed, not only do relationships matter, relationships can be where our brokenness may be made whole.
So first, what does it show us about God. It shows us that God is wholeness, and in a world of brokenness, in a world of disintegration, it is God who makes us whole. The truth is that God as creator is the most powerful integrating force in nature.
This is how we experience God in the stories of creation; God calls order from chaos, God creates wholeness out of nothing. God’s Kingdom is about wholeness and health, God's kingdom is about compassion and mercy. God's kingdom is about being related to God and to one another. And relationships matter to God.
So that is how Jesus responds to the questions of law that the Pharisees ask. The Pharisees are concerned with laws in these questions, they are not concerned with love. You and I approach marriage from the standpoint of love, and romance. The Pharisees approach marriage from a legal standpoint. But Jesus says, this is not about law, it is about love. There is a place for law, for protection of the most vulnerable in our society. A very important place. But that is not what this is about. In the 1st century, marriage is a contract by which the man takes possession of the woman from the woman's father. And Jesus responds to the Pharisees, not by upholding or disparaging the law, but by describing God's heart's desire for humanity to live in relationship, relationship that honors and respects the beloved. This kind of relationship is the way God relates to us, and this kind of relationship is God's desire for us in relationship to one another.
God yearns for humanity to be committed to one another, God wants for humanity to put the beloved before self, God wants for humanity to live together with dignity, respect, love. This is what the kingdom looks like. Jesus knows what happens when relationships are rent, and when relationships are torn asunder. That's what he describes in this passage. Humans are torn apart. Hearts are broken. Children are hurt.
We live in a world of contingency, which is all about the opposite of committed relationships. Contingency and casualness, is a message that is splayed all across our screens. The themes of some of many of our favorite television programs are that if you are not satisfied with the partner you have, you can leave them for another. And even deeper than that. The message that in order to be of value in this world you have to possess a big house, a nice car, a good wife, successful and beautiful children is pervasive, and do whatever it takes to get it.
In the world of 1st century Mediterranean culture the highest value was honor and status, not unlike our culture today. It is into all of this that God invokes relationship and community. In God's kingdom, here is the highest good is commitment to one another. Where promises are made about always being there for the other.
But it is in this world where humanity lives. You and me in all of our glory and in all of the messiness of life live here, in this place. God yearns for us to be together, to put the other first, and yet God knows how we fall short of that. God knows the pain of broken relationships. God knows the pain of love. Isn't that where we are going with Jesus, on this path of discipleship? Straight to the cross, that's the road we are on with Jesus. Right through that pain and suffering of brokenness. Being human is being broken. And as some might say, it ends badly with death on a cross. But you and I know different. We know it doesn't end there. We know that God loves us so absolutely and completely that something amazing happens, that Love wins. That a new thing happens, resurrection. That's the hope in God's relationship with us, and in our relationship with others. We fail. We hurt. We are broken. But because God shares God's very self with us, and because we share our lives with others, we share the very fiber of our being, we are forgiven. We have a second chance. We live through the pain we cause, we live through the pain others cause in our lives. And God's love seeps into our brokenness, God's love seeps into the fissures of our hearts and the fissures of the fibers of our skin and bones and muscles and organs, and somehow we are healed. Somehow we can live again. Somehow, Love wins.
As followers of Jesus, we live in God's kingdom. We live in the place where relationships matter, where relationships are sacred. Where every person has dignity, where every person belongs. The Gospel of Mark starts in the lonely places and Jesus will end up on the cross. But being alone is not what God wants for us. God says, "I am here, in my Son, to be in relationship with you. Nothing can separate us any longer." That's why we do what we do. That's why we ask for forgiveness every time we come to the table to eat. That's why we gather together and stand and kneel shoulder to shoulder to eat the bread and drink the wine. That's why we share our prayers and deposit them in this holy place, together. And that's why we go out into the world bearing God's yearning for relationship to all who we meet. We are Jesus' disciples, we live as kingdom people, and for us, Love wins.
In these times in which violence and disintegration seems to rule the day, sometimes the brokenness seems so vast, the chasm between us so huge, that we cannot even imagine God re-integrating, healing, calling us back together, calling us to wholeness, dying to set us free. But I believe with all my heart and my mind and my soul, that we can be healed. But I also believe we need to act on God's love, we need to be God's hands and God's feet and God's heart and insist that no one is left out. We need to be the change we want to see, wherever we find ourselves. We are the one’s we are waiting for. Find the ways to bring peace. Find the ways to build bridges. Find the ways we may be friends and neighbors again.