The Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 22B (Oct. 4, 2015)

Lessons:Genesis 2:18-24 Psalm 8 (5) Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12 St. Mark 10:2-16 Semicontinuous Series: Job 1:1; 2:1-10 Psalm 26 (3)

Prayer of the Day: Sovereign God, you have created us to live in loving community with one another. Form us for life that is faithful and steadfast, and teach us to trust like little children, that we may reflect the image of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

10:2 Some Pharisees came, and to test him they asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” 3 He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” 4 They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her.” 5 But Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you. 6 But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ 7 ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife,8 and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. 9 Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”  10 Then in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. 11 He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; 12 and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”  13 People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. 14 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. 15 Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” 16 And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.

St. Mark 10:2-16 New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Marriage, Divorce and Family Matters

It isn’t easy, these days, to speak publicly about marriage, divorce and family matters. Oh, it’s not that the church (and its leaders) has nothing to say. And it’s not that we are afraid of the response we’ll get when we say it. It is, instead, that we are called to both a pastoral and a prophetic ministry. In other words, when people are hurting and broken we are called to offer a pastoral presence — a comforting and encouraging presence that allows them to gain their footing and begin moving forward again. And when people are sinning, and have lost sight of God’s call to them, we are called to offer a prophet presence — a challenging presence that names their sin, invites them to repentance and forgiveness, and calls them to new life.

The problem is, when it comes to marriage, divorce and family matters, both a pastoral and a prophetic message are necessary. When we are gathered for worship, when we are tending to Bible study, even when we are visiting with friends for coffee, it is inevitable. There will be some among us whose hearts are broken because of family difficulties that have spun out of their control. They long for a word of grace in the midst of their brokenness. And there will be some among us whose behaviors are having a negative impact on the families they have pledged to nurture and respect. They need a word of challenge to help them return to what God requires of them.

All that said, divorce is not God’s will for us. When two commit themselves to one another in marriage they become one. No longer two, Jesus says, but one. To tear apart this one is contrary to what God wants for us. And so those who have entered into this unity are committed to preserve it. Committed not just to “stay in it no matter what” — but to nurture it; to strengthen it; to make it stronger and healthier and more vibrant as the years go by.

Jesus speaks these challenging words to his listeners. Later, he emphasizes this with his disciples. And after doing so, he continues to explore marriage and family matters. He commands his followers to “let the little children come to me.” Why does Mark put the words of Jesus about marriage and the action of Jesus about children back-to-back? Some understand this to mean that when we are committed to marriage and family matters we are no longer two; not even any longer one; but but we are three or four or five… Marriage, divorce and family do matter, because in the home and in the family faith is shared, and faithfulness is encouraged.

Jesus, who loves married couples, divorcing couples and growing children, wants the family to be a blessing for the children who are part of it. The command to preserve the unity of marriage is not just for the benefit of those who are married (although it is in indeed this), but it is also a command to live as servants of those around us — even servants of the children who live in our homes.


David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. Why did Moses give men permission to divorce their wives?
  2. How does Jesus interpret the actions of Moses?
  3. What is the connection between the unity of marriage and the wellbeing of children?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. How can we most compassionately minister to those who are experiencing the pain of divorce, or who are being affected by unhealthy family dynamics?
  2. What might the church do to strengthen marriages?
  3. What can families do to bless and nurture the children who are part of them?