Sermons 2006
"Divorce", Proper 22B, 8 February 2006, Mark 10: 2-9

Home | "Light and Darkness", Christmas 2C, 31 December 2006, John 1:1-18 | Christmas Eve and Christmas Day 2006 | "What then shall we do?", Advent 3C , 17 December 2006, Luke 3:7-18 | "Luke's Gospel", Advent 1C, 3 Dec 2006, Luke 21:25-31 | Which Jesus? Proper 29B 2006, 26 November 2006, John 18:33-37 | Apocalypticism and Fundamentalism, Proper 28B, 19 Nov 2006, Daniel12; Mark 13:14-23 | "The Widow's Mite: All and Everything", Proper 27B, 12 November 2006, Mark 12:38-44 | "The Commandments to love God, Neighbor, One Another" Proper 26B, 5 November 2006, Mark 12:28-34 | "Sight -- and Seeing" Proper 25B, 29 October 2006, Mark 10:46-52 | "Baptism: Overwhelming Washing", Proper 24B, 22 October 2006 Mark 10:35-45 | "God's Transforming Love", Proper 23B, 15 October 2006, Mark 10:17-31 | "Divorce", Proper 22B, 8 February 2006, Mark 10: 2-9 | "Hard Sayings and Sharp Words", Proper 21B, 1 October 2006, Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48 | "First or Last?" Proper 20B, 24 September 2006, Mark 9:30-37 | "Unintended Consequences", Proper 19B, 17 September 2006, Mark 8:27-38 | "Ephphatha! Open up!" Proper 18B, 10 September 2006, Mark 7:31-37 | "Rituals", Proper 17B, 3 September 2006, Deuteronomy 4:1-9; Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23 | "Choices." Proper 16B, 30 August 2006, Joshua 24:1-2a, 14-25; John 6:60-69 | "Come to the Table." Proper 15B, 20 August 2006, John 6:53-59 | "Do not be afraid." Proper 12B, 30 July 2006, Mark6:45-52 | "General Convention and Jesus' Compassion", Proper 11B, 23 July 2006, Mark 6: 30-44 | "Basics for the Journey", Proper 10B, 16 July 2006, Mark 6:7-13 | "Jesus and Rejection", Proper 9B, 9 July 2006, Mark 6:1-6 | "Trust, Faith, and Belief" Proper 8B, 2 July 2006, Mark 5:22-43 | "Storms, Fear, and Faith" Proper 7B, 25 June 2006, Mark 4:35-41 | Mighty things from Small, Proper 6B, 18 June 2006, Mark 4:26-34 | Trinity, Pentecost 1, 11 June 2006, Exodus 3:1-6; John 3:1-16 | The King Jesus Fire-Baptized Holy Spirit Church, Pentecost , 4 June, Acts 2:1-11; Jn 20:19-23 | "That they may be one" General Convention 2006, Easter 7B 28 May 2006, John 5:9-15 | "Friends, friendship, and love" Easter 6B, 21 May 2006, John 15:9-17 | Mother's Day, two mothers' love!" Easter 5B, 14 April 2006, John 14:15-21 | "Interesting, this Good Shepherd!" Easter 4B, 7 May 2006, John 10:11-16 | "How do you prove you are alive?", Easter 3B, 30 April 2006, Luke 24:36b-48 | "Do you believe because...." Easter 2B, 23 April 2006, John 20:19-31 | "He goes before you to Galilee...." Easter B 2006, 16 April, Mark 16:1-8 | "Journey into darkness", Palm Sunday B, 9 April 2006. Mark 11:1-11, 14:32-15:47 | "Sir, we would see Jesus!" Lent 5B, 2 April 2006, John 12:20-33 | "Miracles and Faith, Ordinary and Not", Lent 4B 2006, 26 March 2006, John 6:4-15 | "Rage, Rampage, and Outrage", Lent 3B, 19 March 2006, John 2: 13-22 | "Images of the Cross", Lent 2B, 12 March 2006, Mark 8:31-38 | "Baptism, Temptation, Redemption," Lent 1B, 5 March 2005, Mark 1:9-13 | Ash Wednesday , 1 March 2006, Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21 | ""Nanny McPhee' and transfiguration", Epiphany Last B, Mark 9:2-9 | "Jesus, leprosy, and the law of Moses", Epiphany 6B, 12 February 2006, Mark 1:40-45 | "Healing, wholeness, forgiveness, and love", Epiphany 5B, 5 February 2006, Mark 1:29-39 | "Haints, Unclean spirits, and demons" Epiphany 4B, 22 January 2006, Mark 1:21-28 | Epiphany 3B, 22 January 2006, "God's Call -- and Our Response", Mark 1:14-20 | Epiphany 2B, 15 January 2006, "Call and Response", John 1:43-51 | Epiphany 1B, 8 January 2006, "The Baptism of our Lord -- and Ours", Mark 1:7-11 | The Holy Name, 1 January 2006, Luke 2: 15-21

Proper 22B Mark 10:2-9

There is a story about a young woman named Sally who was driving home from a business trip in Northern Arizona. She saw an elderly Navajo woman walking on the side of the road. As the trip was a long and quiet one, she stopped the car and asked the Navajo woman if she would like a ride. With a silent nod of thanks, the woman got into the car. Resuming the journey, Sally tried in vain to make a bit of small talk with the Navajo woman. The old woman just sat silently, looking intently at everything she saw in the car, studying every little detail.
Then the old woman noticed a brown bag on the seat next to Sally. "What’s in bag?" asked the old woman. Sally looked down at the brown bag and said, "It’s a leather coat. I got it for my husband."
The Navajo woman was silent for a moment. Then with the quiet wisdom of an elder, she said: "Good trade." (1)

There are a number of us here in this parish who have gone through the painful experience of a divorce. This is a hard biblical text for us. And no matter how justified divorce might be by one or both parties, a divorce is painful. The damage reaches beyond the couple who could no longer, for whatever reason, cling together any longer. I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot more of us have thought about it from time to time. The famous evangelical, Billy Graham, said about his own marriage, “Ruth and I never considered divorce. Murder, yes – but divorce, no.” (InterNet)

There was once a visiting preacher, a bishop of the Methodist church, who explained her unwillingness to preach on this Sunday’s Gospel by saying, “I don’t think that I have the authority to come in here, as a visitor, and to preach on a text that is potentially hurtful to many of your members.” And she has a point. Today’s Gospel, where Jesus answers his critics’ question about remarriage after divorce, has caused pain among many whenever it is read.

The pertinent Deuteronomy passage (24:1 ), is this: “Suppose a man enters into marriage with a woman, but she does not please him because he finds something objectionable about her, and so he writes her a certificate of divorce.” The rabbis over the centuries until Jesus time and to our time have hotly debated just what was meant by “something objectionable.” Some believed that the objection ought only to be for infidelity; others were open to divorce on grounds that we might consider to be trivial and frivolous.

Jesus seems to be rather solidly on the side of those rabbis who had a strict interpretation of the possible grounds for divorce. Furthermore, Jesus stresses, as did the rabbis, that God is the basis for this stricture against remarriage after divorce.

The church seemed to struggle from the first to uphold this hard saying against divorce and remarriage after divorce, and at the same time to realize that individual believers found themselves in situations where there is conflict between one good and another. And so we find ourselves in the tension between this saying of Jesus against divorce, and the love your neighbor commandment to comfort those who struggle in real life situations in the face of marital dissolution.

Jesus addresses the tension between his tough position against divorce and remarriage by first appealing to the creation story in Genesis 1, our Old Testament lesson for today. God intends that married people stay together. God is on the side of unity, community, togetherness, and enduring commitment to one another “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, until death do us part,” would be a heartless, unstable, and chaotic place. But with the rate of marital separation in our society, with still poorly enforced child support laws, our world has become unglued for many.

But Jesus was all too well aware that in his society, women had little or no power, status, or security. Women rarely owned property, and marriage meant a guarantee of some support for the most vulnerable members of the society – women and children. Without legal protection against divorce, women were totally at the mercy of their husbands. In criticizing those who advocated easy divorce (and there were many in Israel who did so in his day), Jesus put himself on the side of the weak and the vulnerable

Almost all of us either are people who have divorced and remarried or else we love people who have divorced and remarried. Would Jesus tell a woman who has suffered terrible domestic abuse, “Stay married and endure it.” And when that woman finally summoned the courage to leave her abusive husband, would Jesus say, “Now that you have divorced, you may never remarry?”

It would be a sad for the church today to take what Jesus said against marital breakup and use it to beat up on those persons who, for various reasons, have decided to end their marriage and separate, as if divorce were the one unforgivable sin. Marital separation hurts people, and hurting, vulnerable people are those who are especially loved by Jesus – hence today’s Gospel defends those who are victimized in marriage and divorce

What Jesus says here is not an all-inclusive, once-and-for-all final word about divorce and remarriage. Rather, it is his response to a question that was put to him by his critics who were hoping to trip Jesus up. And what Jesus says is not a once-and-for-all condemnation of divorced people. He comes down clearly on the side of the weak, the vulnerable, and the defenseless. We live in a broken world where people, for whatever reason, make and break promises, where people find it difficult to keep their commitments, and where people have promises broken by other people. Jesus is clearly with those who are hurt by such human chaos. He always is.

And so here it is: a defense of those demands of Jesus that seem severe and difficult, and also a reaffirmation that the same God who, in Christ, demands so much of us, also loves us and forgives us. Jesus manages to offer demands and mercy at the same time. So should we.


1. What God Has Joined Together by King Duncan for Proper 22B,
2. Adapted from William Willimon in Pulpit Resource for 8 October 2006.

Wicomico Parish Church
PO Box 70
Wicomico Church, Virginia 22579