Made for Each Other

+ A sermon for the Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost (Year B) / Proper 22B / Ordinary 27B at Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Bellevue, WA on October 7, 2018 +

Texts: Genesis 2:18-24, Mark 10:2-16


Grace to you and peace from God our Creator and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

If I were to ask you to name your favorite Bible verse, I’m going to guess that no one is going to pick these ones we just heard from Mark’s gospel.
In fact, if I were to pick my least favorite verses, well, I’d imagine that Jesus talking about divorce is at least on the top 10.
And really, this section we heard from Genesis can be difficult too.

These two readings we heard this morning have done a lot of real damage to lives and to the faith of many people.
They have been used to justify subjugation of women by men.
They have been used to declare that the marriage of one man and one woman is the ultimate blessing of God – which leaves a lot of people out of that blessing.
Not only those who are married to a person of the same sex, and those who fall outside of the gender binary as well as those who are single for whatever reason.
These verses have been used to declare divorce to be unacceptable in God’s eyes and to cast shame on those who are divorced.

And for many, this is a real challenge. For so many of us, divorce is personal.
Who among us has not been affected in some way by divorce?
We all have experienced it, or perhaps even considered it, in our lives, in our relationships, in our families, in our friends and neighbors.
We know that there are so many different reasons for a divorce that a blanket condemnation doesn’t cut it for us.
We know that there are many instances where divorce is the more faithful, healthy, and even life-giving option.
So when we hear Jesus say the things he does today, we wonder what that means for us – what that means for our loved ones.

But we also have to remember that there is a big difference between marriage and divorce in Jesus’ day and in our modern society.
We have to remember that at the time, women had very few rights.
Marriage was often more about a transfer of property than an expression of love.
And if a husband divorced his wife – which was almost exclusively how it happened – the consequences for the woman were devastating.
She would face public shame and rejection by her family. She would have very few economic prospects – divorce meant almost certain ruin for the woman and her children.
And legally, men were permitted to sue for divorce for really trivial reasons meaning a woman’s life could be ruined because her husband decided she wasn’t attractive enough or even that she burnt the toast, according to one ancient source.109803_thinkstockphotos-471862222_0001

So when the Pharisees test Jesus today and try to trick him into saying something embarrassing or even potentially offensive to those in power, Jesus responds with an answer that sounds regressive by modern standards but was absolutely radical in his context.
Jesus says that men and women should be treated equally in divorce – held to the same standards – groundbreaking for his time.
But what’s more, he says that humans must live into relationships of true equality because that’s how we were created.
He reminds us of the Genesis story of humanity’s creation – the story we heard in our first reading.

We hear in this second creation story that God created a human to tend the garden, to care for creation.
But God quickly recognized that it was not good for the human to be alone – that a partner was needed.
And when every bird of the air and animal of the field was seen to be inadequate as a partner, God needed to create a true equal.

21d0a60528d6cdb8f35c53f27041de50-wooden-sculptures-sculture
Jean-Charles Ferrand, “Adam et Eve” – Wood Sculpture, 2008

So when the human was asleep, God split them into two – took a side from the human (not just a rib as some translations say) and created female and male – companions and partners.
Co-workers in the garden and helpers for each other.
True equals from the same creation.

From the very beginning of our human story, God created us to be helpers and partners for each other, to be in relationship with each other.
This is what we are made for – to care for God’s creation together, to care for each other with mutual respect and true equality.
This is about much more than marriage, this is about how we can live together as God created us – because when we are alone, we are only one part of a whole.
When we rely on ourselves we are missing what could be.
“It is not good that the human should be alone,” God reminds us.
But when we come together in true mutuality and love we find unity and completeness.
We see that we are not alone but can be part of something much greater than ourselves.
When we join with our fellow children of God we find wholeness despite our individual brokenness.

But when we loose sight of this vision, when we forget the relationship for which we were made, we can so easily fall into the lies that surround us as we seek personal glory or dominance.
When we forget that we were created for each other, we may try to subjugate our fellow children of God.
We create systems where women are dismissed as second class citizens – not believed, not listened to, not valued as equals.
We create laws that oppress people based on race or ethnicity.
We seek power for ourselves and forget the vulnerable people who suffer because of it.

By using this creation story as the basis of his teaching, I think Jesus is telling us that we’re missing the point when we’re focused on marriage and the legality of divorce.
This is about so much more.
Our relationships with each other are about far more than what is legal under the law – they are about living into the love by which we were created and the wholeness God intended for our lives.
Jesus is reminding us that we were made for each other – that we are meant to live in mutually beneficial and equal relationships.
That even when we are broken, we can find wholeness in each other – supporting and caring for each other as we work together to care for God’s creation.

Rather than fall into the trap the Pharisees set for him, Jesus gives them a radical reimagining of what human community should look like – a vision that is honestly still revolutionary today.
Because if we truly live into the vision for which we were created, we would reject anything that dehumanizes or marginalizes a fellow child of God.
We would topple the patriarchy and misogyny that falsely places men above other people.
We would dismantle racist systems that oppress our siblings of color.
We would recognize each person as bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh – equal partners in our work to tend the garden and care for God’s creation.

160823-bone

Yes, this text is about so much more than marriage and divorce.
This is about living into the vision for which we were made.
Jesus is showing us that the law is about more than convenience for a few but is intended to protect the vulnerable.
That the God gave us the law to remind us that we must care for each other.

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Navajo Jesus and Children by Fr John Giuliani

I think that’s why Jesus then immediately welcomes children into his arms and demands his disciples do the same.
Children were the most vulnerable of all in Jesus’ day – lacking rights and denied personhood.
And yet we are told that it to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.
It’s for the vulnerable that God has come to earth.
That we cannot imagine the reign of God if we try to build ourselves up but we must recognize our own vulnerability and come together in community to glimpse God’s reign in our lives.

Jesus is inviting us to look beyond the letter of the law and see the spirit by which it was created.
To see the reason that we are here together – to live and love together.
To bring healing and wholeness to each other.
Jesus is calling us to live into the new creation that he is bringing – a new kind of community based on the love by which we were created.
A community of the broken and the vulnerable.
A community of equals and partners in doing God’s work.
A community of people created by God and loved by their creator.

Because for whatever reason, God chose us humans to care for the whole creation.
For whatever reason, Jesus chose the broken and the vulnerable to build the reign of God.

And that’s really what the church was originally about – a place for those who had been broken down by life, those who were rejected by the powerful, those who were the most vulnerable in society to come together in community.
To find a God who met them their brokenness and loved them all the same.
To form a community that cared for the broken and vulnerable around them and share the love of Christ.

Each one of us has brokenness in our lives.
We know the brokenness that we have.
We all can name our faults and our failings – our sins and shortfalls, our pains and broken relationships.

psalm85
“Psalm 85,” serigraph, John August Swanson

But in this place, we can find wholeness in a God who heals us and a community that embraces us.
In this place we are reminded that we were created for each other and for the world God so deeply loves.
And in this place we can come together to share in God’s love for us.
Because in this new community that Jesus is bringing, God uses broken people like you and me to love and care for broken people.
God uses communities of broken people like this one to heal the whole creation.
And by living together in community, by allowing God to reunite us into one flesh, we get to be part of this new reign that God is creating in our midst.

We all experience brokenness, and yet we are not alone.
We all fall short and yet God’s love never leaves us.
Christ meets us in our brokenness and our vulnerability.
We as Christians worship a God who we see most clearly on the cross, when Jesus was the most broken and the most vulnerable.
We celebrate a meal where our God comes to us in bread that is broken to bring wholeness to our lives.
And if that’s where we see our God, it’s probably a good place to see ourselves – caring and loving the broken people around us.
We are a community of broken people, embraced by our broken God.
And yet in this place, in this church, we embrace each other as we are and are embraced by our loving God and find something more.
We experience the wholeness God has intended for us and carry our Creator’s love to a broken world.

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