Sermon for Proper 22, Year B- October 3, 2021

Genesis 2:18-24                 Psalm 8                Hebrews 1:1-4,2:5-12     Mark 10:2-16

                Today we begin our readings with the second creation story- not the one in which God created living creatures on the fifth day, the man and women on the sixth day, “in our own image” as it says in the first chapter of Genesis. This is the one in which God first forms Adam from the dust of ground, breaths into him the breath of life, then plants a garden in Eden for him. God creates every animal of the field before creating a mate for Adam. To create Eve, God causes Adam to fall into deep sleep and takes a rib from his side to create her. She is created, the Bible says, to be Adam’s partner.

          Cathy and I were living in Fayetteville, and taking Education for Ministry before I realized these are actually two different accounts of creation. I had honestly never paid much attention to the fact that these two stories are not only different, they contradict each other- the order of creation is different. They do not however, contradict each other in that God is the creator of all that is and that God places humanity over all of creation. They both establish a sacred connection between God and creation, and humankind and creation. We are the stewards of what God has created.

          In the second creation story, it also sanctifies the relationship between husband and wife. “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh.” Notice here, the story skips ahead to a time when there are fathers and mothers to leave and women for sons to marry.

          Embedded in this story is what a marriage is supposed to be. It says we are to be partners. A marriage is a partnership. We are to help one another accomplish God’s purpose for us as referred to as the bridegroom and the church as a bridge. We are partners who are here to accomplish God’s will- that is what our relationship to Christ is meant to be- partners in the care of creation.

          Relationships are also the subject of our Gospel reading. Some Pharisees in an effort to discredit Jesus ask him, “is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” Jesus answers with a question, “What did Moses command you?” To which they respond, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her”.

          As Jesus often does with his answer to questions, he challenges them to look past the law and see what God intends for us. He says,

          “Because of your hardness of heart, he wrote this commandant 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.”

Jesus does not question the law which allows a man to divorce his wife, but neither does he accept divorce as being ‘ok’.

          This reading is difficult for many of us- especially knowing that some marriages are toxic and need to be ended. There is no partnership in these marriages, only hardness of heart. I do believe God’s desire for us is to be in loving relationships and to be happy. So, it is difficult to hear Jesus tell his disciples, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

          Clearly our church and most churches do not take this literally. We support remarriage after a divorce. Reading today’s gospel might call this practice into question, but only if we ignore the overarching principles of biblical teaching. We do not base our theology on a single verse or teaching. We understand God to be a God of love and forgiveness- a God of second, third, fourth chances. When Peter asks Jesus how many times we are to forgive someone who sins against us, Jesus says seventy times seven- which is far more than “the law” says. God forgives many of us far more than just seventy time seven. In Today’s gospel, Jesus is stressing the importance of commitment and relationships- not, I believe, what the law should be concerning broken relationships.

          It is why we were created- to love and support one another. At the conclusion of the gospel, Jesus says more about our relationship with God. The disciples try to discourage people from bringing children to Jesus. Jesus however, is indignant when he sees what they are doing.

          He says “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is too 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.” A small child’s face lights up upon receiving an unexpected gift. This is what I think of when I heard this scripture. As we grow older, we might be disappointed by a gift that is not what we expected or wanted.

          To experience God’s kingdom, we must set aside our expectations if we are to see and appreciate the depth of love God has for us. We are not the creators of God’s kingdom. But we were created in God’s image and we are loved and welcomed into God’s kingdom. God’s kingdom belongs, Jesus is saying, to all who enter with the innocence of a child who comes, not with expectations, but to it in awe and wonder.

          Today’s scriptures remind us of the importance of relationships- relationships in which we trust and care for one another. It is about commitment to work together to care for creation and it is about experiencing the same appreciation for what God has created, as a child experiences coming into the arms of Christ.

Let us pray.

          Loving God, we give thanks for the gift of creation. Help us, we pray, to see through the eyes of a child and to love and care for it as Christ cares for us. We offer our prayers in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.