Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Sunday, October 7, 2012
The Gifts of Marriage and Children - October 7, 2012 - Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 22) - Text: Mark 10:2-16
Last week our Gospel lesson continued our reading through the Gospel of Mark. Jesus instructed the apostles and His disciples, including us today who are His disciples, followers and learners of Jesus, to take care in not causing others to sin and unbelief and to be careful that we do not allow the temptations of this world, the devil and our own sinful flesh to cause us to sin. Quite a daunting task if you ask me.
This week we continue our reading through the Gospel of Mark and we come to another attempt by the Pharisees to test Jesus in order to trap Him into saying something that will turn the people against Him. Perhaps you have noticed that the Pharisees do not question Jesus privately, but are always looking for a crowd as an opportunity to publicly trap Him. Of course, as we always see, their deviancy always fails.
This morning the attempt of the Pharisees is to get Jesus to speak, shall we say, unpopularly about divorce. You may notice that their concern is not about what God says in His Word, but about public perception and popularity, not much different than what happens in our world today. The trap the Pharisees are trying to set comes out of the two views of divorce within the Jewish community. One view of divorce was that of the Shammai who taught that a man may not divorce his wife unless he found something indecent in her. The second view of divorce was that of the Hillel which allowed for divorce for any reason. Does Jesus agree with the Shammai or the Hillel? As always, Jesus does not fall for their trap. Jesus does not agree with either view, rather He turns the question back on the Pharisees and speaks of the original intent of marriage from God Himself in His Word.
Jesus questions the Pharisees, “What did Moses command you?” He asks. Their answer, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.” And then Jesus goes on from there to explain that the reason God allowed Moses to allow divorce was because of sin and the hardness of the human heart. Jesus continued to explain that God’s intent was never divorce, but a one flesh union.
Jesus explains God’s gift of marriage from the beginning, as we heard it in our Old Testament reading for this morning. God created the man Adam. God created the woman Eve for Adam. God gave Adam and Eve to be married, thus we understand that marriage is a gift from God of a man and a woman. And more, God instructs in marriage that “a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Marriage is a one flesh for life union, that is God’s original gift and intent.
Later, as they are in the house Jesus explains further to His disciples. Jesus says that divorce causes both parties to sin, the husband, the man, and the wife, the woman. Divorce causes both parties to sin because the legal act of this world never diminishes the spiritual gifts that God gives. And here I would caution us all, God never said nor implied that divorce is a lesser or greater sin than any other sin, nor did He say or imply that it was not a forgivable sin.
Our text continues with the bringing and blessing of children. We might wonder, what does this have to do with marriage and divorce? Our text truly continues with Jesus speaking of the blessing of marriage. In our church we understand the fourfold blessing of marriage. First, marriage is a picture of Christ and the Church. Christ is the bridegroom and His Church is the bride. As Paul outlines in Ephesians, wives be subordinate to your husbands as the Church is subordinate to Christ. And husbands love your wives as Christ loved the Church, so much that He gave His life for His bride, the Church.
The second blessing of marriage is that it is intended for mutual joy in companionship and for help and support in adversity and prosperity. God has never promised that life in this world would be easy and problem free, nor did He give such a promise in marriage. And actually, because we live in a cursed, sin filled world, life often is the exact opposite, full of adversity and struggles. The one flesh union of marriage gives husbands and wives, united with God, a stronger bond to fight against temptation and sin.
The third blessing of marriage is chastity. Unfortunately we live in a very unchaste world were chastity is viewed as taking away our freedom of expression. God understood the affects of the one flesh union of marriage and He understood how promiscuity would bring much pain and suffering, both spiritually and often times even physically including physical diseases and the like. In order to keep us safe, in order to give us peace in our lives, spiritual and physical peace, God has given us marriage so that in the bonds of marriage we might find joy in all aspects of life with our spouse.
The fourth blessing of marriage, and this is where the last part of our text comes in, is that as God wills, marriage is for procreation. One of the blessing of marriage is the gift of procreation, that is the gift of children. God blessed Adam and Eve and said be fruitful and multiply. God has never rescinded that blessing. It is through procreation that God continues to bless and build His Church. The opposite of this is to buy the lies of Satan who tempts the world into believing that the world is overcrowded and that God has not provided us with the resources we need, thus we should have fewer children; and who tempts to world into believing that the homosexual lifestyle is okay, thus negating the ability to have children. For every blessing our Lord gives us in marriage, Satan attacks and attempts to take them away.
Getting back to our text, Jesus speaks of the faith of a child. As Jesus is speaking about marriage, people are bringing little children to Jesus to have Him touch them and bless them. Upon rebuking His own disciples who were discouraging this behavior, Jesus speaks to us concerning the faith of a child. Yes, children can and do have faith. Even infants have faith, it is simply that they do not express their faith the way you and I express our faith, probably because they have not learned to speak yet. Have you ever noticed that when you put a spoon of food up to an infants mouth it opens it mouth believing that you are giving it something good to eat. Have you ever notice how children will jump in the arms of a parent believing the parent will catch them.
Jesus tells us adults that He would want us to have the faith of a child. The faith of a child is a faith that has not yet learned to doubt and not believe. As adults we earn a living, we barter, trade and purchase clothing and shoes, meat and drink, our house and home and on and on. As children, we are provided with all that we need by our parents. As children we trust God through our parents to provide for all that we need. God’s desire, as expressed by Jesus, is that as adults we would have faith as a child and believe that as He has provided for all our needs, so He will continue to provide for all our needs.
What does all this mean? Again this morning we are reminded that God gives. God gives gifts. God gives good order. God gives marriage. And God gives children. What we have when we are born and what we take with us when we die is what is truly ours. We are born with nothing and we will leave this world with nothing. Everything we have in this world is a gift and is on loan to us from God. God gives us life at conception. He gives us gifts, talents and abilities to work. He gives us employment in order to earn a living. He provides through our employment a roof over our heads, shoes on our feet, clothes on our backs, and food on our tables. According to His good and gracious will He provides us with a spouse and children, perhaps even grand children and great grand children.
God’s desire is that as we are given God’s gifts and even more that when we are given His gifts we are given them as He gives them. To not be given God’s gifts as He gives them is indeed to reject them and we reject His gifts by complaining that He has not given us what we want, nor enough of what we believe we deserve. To not be given God’s gifts as He gives them is to not respond with an attitude of thanks, to not return a portion from all that He has first given, to not recognize that all things are from His gracious hand. Certainly God rains down blessings on the just and the unjust. The unjust fail to give thanks to God. The just rejoice and give thanks knowing that all things have been give to us by God.
God provides for us all that we need and most especially God provides for our greatest need. God’s greatest gifts are faith, forgiveness and eternal life. We are conceived and born in sin. Sin separates us from God. Left in our sin we would be eternally lost, doomed to eternal spiritual death in hell. But thanks be to God, that not only has He given us life at conception, He gives us new life through the waters of Holy Baptism. He gives us faith and strengthening of faith through His Holy Word. He gives us forgiveness through confession and absolution. He strengthens us through His body and blood in His Holy Sacrament. God gives and we are given to.
And because, in and of ourselves we are unable, our Lord even gives to us and stirs in us to give thanks to Him for all His gifts. As our Lord gives us faith, stirs in us the desire to make regular and diligent us of His means of grace, that is the desire to be given more of His gifts, He stirs in us to give ourselves to Him, all of ourselves so that all that we are and have are His, thus emulating the faith of a child.
So, as always, we get it right when we point to Jesus. Jesus is pointing His disciples and the Pharisees, and us to God the Father and ultimately to Himself. God gives. God gives marriage. God blesses marriage. God gives children. God gives faith, forgiveness and life. And through His Word and sacraments He takes us in His arms and blesses us, laying His hands on us. Our response of thanks is to say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.