“Communities of Sinners and Saints!”

Nineteen Sunday after Pentecost 4 October 2015
(Genesis 2:18-24 Psalm 8 Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12 Mark 10:2-16)
“Communities of Sinners and Saints!”
I ran into a dilemma this past week when I began thinking about this sermon. The dilemma is this: the entire Gospel text, everything you just heard. The dilemma is that, seemingly, this Gospel is all about marriage and divorce.
Therefore, how does this Gospel speak to us on this Sunday morning when Pastor Andrew will be installed as our Associate pastor?
After lots of praying and plenty of reading, even using my Wednesday morning Bible Study for some possible insight, what stirred within me was a totally different way to approach this text than the way I have interpreted it in the past.
Every time this passage is read at church, we tend to hear it in a very personal way, especially if we, or our parents, or our children have gone through a divorce. Usually we end up feeling ashamed or angry or hurt or embarrassed. And that is totally understandable, especially, if this is Jesus’ way to set the Law straight on divorce.
But here’s the thing. I don’t think this was the intention of Jesus, so this morning I will suggest another way to look at this text. [Pew Bibles p. 56, very top]
Let’s look closely at how Mark sets up the scene: “Some Pharisees came and to test him, they asked, “Is it lawful…..” [Mk. 10:2] Do you see that? This certainly is not a casual conversation about love, marriage, and divorce. It is a test! Moreover, it is not even a test about divorce, but about Mosaic law.
At that time, there were various schools of thought about the legality of divorce according to the Law of Moses. The Pharisees are here to pin down Jesus, to test him, to trap him.
And Jesus is having none of it. He deflects them away from matters of the Law and turns it instead to relationship and, in particular, to God’s hope that our relationships with others are a whole lot more than simply legal matters. This is a whole other sermon, but this Genesis quote [vs. 6-9] is much less about divorce than it is about God’s intention that we be in relationships of mutually healthy dependence with each other, challenging the Pharisees to what appears to be a very convenient interpretation of Mosaic law.
So if we go at this text this way, then we hear Jesus not so much speaking to individuals about divorce, as He is making a statement about the way all of us need to be in relationship with each other! Jesus is inviting us into a community that is centered in and on genuine relationships that are founded on mutual love and mutual dependence, fostered by dignity and respect, and the protection of the vulnerable.
So here’s the rub! Even though the discussion up to this point seems to have been all about divorce, I don’t think that is the heart of what’s going on, which is why I am grateful that the Lectionary added those next verses describing the reaction to Jesus’ disciples to those bringing children to Jesus to bless.
Again, let’s remember context: remember several weeks ago we heard Jesus announce his intention to begin his journey to Jerusalem to die, and in response, his disciples argue who is the greatest. And Jesus could not be more clear: the very heart of the Kingdom is about welcoming the vulnerable, like divorced women and children, both who had the least status and power in the ancient world.
So here’s my point for this text today. I think it is really about community. But not the type of community we’ve been trained to seek. It is not about a community of the strong, or the wealthy, or the powerful, or the independent. Rather, it is a community of the broken, the vulnerable, and those at risk.
This is what the church started out to be—a place for all those who had been broken by life or rejected by the powerful—those who came to experience God through the crucified Jesus as the One who met them precisely where they were in life!
Part of being human is to be insecure, to be aware of our needs. Yet, in a culture that idolizes strength and power and independence, and basically encourages us to be embarrassed when we don’t have it all together, in Jesus we are reminded that to be damaged or defeated is not something to be ashamed of; rather, it is to be human. And to be human is to be loved by God and drawn together into relationship with all others.
Which means that we are a church, a faith community of both the broken and the loved; of both the hurting and the healing; of both the lost and the found; of both the sinner and the saint.
This when I will ask Pastor Andrew if he is ready to join such a community. And if Pastor Andrew says he’s ready to join such a broken and blessed group of people, then I’ll be ready to install him as our Associate pastor.
Finally, the same question is for each one of us: can we read this text today as an invitation to commit ourselves to becoming a more vital part of this community of sinners and saints, believing that this is a place where we can also discover God’s life-giving grace, God’s love and God’s mercy. I surely hope so! Amen.
_________________________________
Various ideas and thoughts in this sermon find their basis in David Lose’ blog, posted on 28 September 2015.

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