Monday, October 1, 2012

Gospel Text for Sunday 7 October, 2012

Mark 10:2-16        Some Pharisees came, and to test Jesus they asked, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?" He answered them, "What did Moses command you?" They said, "Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her." But Jesus said to them, "Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you. 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. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate."

 Then in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. He said to them, "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery."

 People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But 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. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it." And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.

It is interesting to me that when I read the Gospel of Mark, generally  I relate to the stories and parables allegorically, as texts pointing beyond themselves. So I surprise myself when I read this text and find myself responding in a most literal (O.K. be honest – defensive) manner. I suppose it has something to do with the fact that I was divorced and I have had too many birthdays to call myself a child.

Still, I do not believe that the writer of Mark’s gospel intends for us readers to sink into discussions of acceptable versus unacceptable grounds for divorce or property or custody agreements. At every turn the gospel invites us to look beyond superficial details and discover Divine Intention.  So what are the jewels hidden in this text? What does it have to say to me, a single person who once upon a time was married? What does it say to me who once upon a time was a child? When I look at marriage and childhood as pointing to spiritual truths that lie beyond themselves I begin to glean some meaning and relevance for my life.

A fundamental truth that Jesus articulates regarding marriage is “the two shall become one flesh.” In other words, what once was separated is now united. According to the writer of John’s gospel Jesus says, “I and the Father are one, “ (John 10.30) and later expands his message of union and unity when he says, “In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.” (John 14.20) In God’s economy, in the realm of the Spirit, God intends that we all are one. Paul explains this in his letter to the Romans, “…  so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” (Rom 12:5). Our journey of faith is an inclusive adventure during which we discover that our deepest meaning and value, the revelation of each of our individual truest selves, is revealed in the network of connections between us and all of God’s creatures. We are one in the interconnected web of being. We are fundamentally joined; to behave otherwise (to divorce ourselves one from another) is to turn away from God.

 And that I believe is something children know instinctively. Children know they are connected. They know they are vulnerable and dependent upon others. And we adults are to receive one another “as a little child,” acknowledging our interdependence, full of hope and wonder, and we will be blessed.