Friday, October 1, 2021

Sunday's sermon


Sunday, 10-3-2021

       A preacher should know who their speaking to.

       I think I know you well enough now to imagine that today’s gospel is somewhat unsettling to many of you.

       Mark’s Jesus is straight forward in his condemnation of divorce.

       Some Christian churches still do not recognize civil divorce, including the largest Christian denomination in the world—the Roman Catholic church.

       (But, as a Catholic, if you ‘know someone’ high enough up or are willing to pay for the service, the Church will provide you with a Papal ‘annulment’ so you may leave your spouse behind and remarry! That seems a tad ‘two-faced’ to me….)

       The Episcopal Church recognizes divorce and re-marriage. It would be ironic if the church, having come from the Church of England which came into being in 1550, breaking from the Roman church so King Henry VIII could divorce his wife Catherine and marry Ann Boleyn, would not have a more open view of divorce and remarriage!

       The re-marriage of a divorced person must come as a request from a parish priest to the Bishop of the Diocese, who makes the final decision.

       I must tell you, in nearly 40 years as a priest, I have never had that request turned down. (However, as some of you know, the most recent marriage I did, permission did not come until the eve of the wedding day!)

       Would I have done it anyway? Most likely I would have and let the Bishop’s ire come on my head.

       In Jesus’ time, women were considered ‘property’ by Jewish law. ‘Property of their father from birth and ‘property’ of their husband after marriage.

       You notice when the Pharisees come to Jesus, they ask, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” No mention of a woman divorcing her husband since, as Jesus gets out of them when he asks what Moses said, they answer: “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her.”

       For his time, Jesus was a great defender of women. We see it over and again.

       But in the gospels, men were described by where they came from: Saul of Tarsus, Jesus of Nazareth, like that.

       But women were described as related to their husbands or their sons: Mary, wife of Joseph or mother of Jesus—in John’s Gospel, on the Cross, Jesus tells his mother that the beloved disciple is now her son. He does that to give her and identity since Joseph is dead and Jesus is dying.

       The only woman in the gospels named for where she comes from is Mary of Magdala.

       (I have a lot to say of Mary of Magdala, but not today!)

       So, we could see Jesus’ rejection of divorce as an act in defense of women.

       At any rate, divorce is not the issue for us.

       For human beings, when something is ‘broken’, we either fix it or get rid of it.

       When my car broke down on Route 8 South, leaving here the third Sunday I was with you, I had it fixed and drive it still. But the day will come when it can’t be fixed and I will trade it in.

       The same of marriages. My first advice for a broken marriage would be to ask the couple to try counseling and re-conciliation to ‘fix’ it. But, if that doesn’t work, the best idea for both people is to move on.

       All of that said, the Gospel ends with Jesus taking children in his arms and declaring, ‘whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.”

       Lord knows, children make mistakes. It’s how they learn and grow.

       It is the same with we adults—we learn and grow from our mistakes.

       Even when the mistake was a marriage.

       Our mistakes teach us humility and makes us like little children again open to the kingdom of God….Amen.


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About Me

some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.