God’s Love for the Hurting
It was just two weeks ago that Jesus explained to the disciples how we are to approach The Kingdom of Heaven, as a child. We heard that the child is a symbol of vulnerability, powerlessness, and dependency. Today, as Jesus debates with the Pharisees Jesus calls the little children to him again to illustrate another point.
Some advice from my training vicar. “There are two subjects to be avoided when preaching, The Trinity and Divorce”. Christians the world over are faced with the knotty problem of Divorce, and I am sure there will be people in church today who are struggling with what the Bible has to say about it.
Our gospel reading this morning starts with a discussion about divorce and ends with a discussion about entering God’s kingdom like little children. While they seem to be disconnected, they really are not, and we need to find out why.
Mark often puts two or more stories that are seemingly different side-by-side because of the deeper connection between them. We need to understand that Mark’s Gospel was not intended to be a daily diary of Jesus’ activities. Rather, it was intended to teach us about how we are to live our lives as Christians.
In our reading from Mark 10 Jesus is trying to tell us that we are to show concern for the vulnerable and less fortunate in society. In Jesus’ time, women and children were among the least fortunate in society. They had very few rights. In fact, women were seen as the property of their husbands. A man could divorce his wife for seemingly petty reasons such as burning the dinner, not keeping the home clean or just getting older. All he had to do under the Law of Moses was to write a bill of divorce, give it to the woman and send her on her way. It’s no wonder that prostitution is mentioned so many times in the Bible. It was the only way a divorced woman in that society could support herself and her children, especially if she didn’t have any other male relatives who could support her. Jesus then is speaking into a very different culture to our own and that is something to keep at the forefront of our mind.
In society today there are many divorced women who are working to support themselves and their children without the support of their ex-husbands. Sadly, for many ‘Marriage’ is often seen today as nothing more than a social contract, but God sees marriage as a sacrament bonding a man with a woman. Society and some churches are pushing to change their interpretation of God’s plan. There is for example, challenging debate within the Church about same-sex marriages.
While God’s plan is that marriages last until death, God also knows that divorce is a reality because of our frail, sinful, human nature. That is why Moses allowed divorce, but he made it as difficult as possible. The bill of divorce had to be written. Since many people at that time were illiterate, the process was a long and difficult one. God is also aware that there are situations where divorce is necessary, such as in the case of abuse. While every possible effort should be made to save marriages, we Christians MUST love and support those who have been hurt by the pain of divorce to show them that God continues to love them and shares in their pain.
Divorce does not affect spouses alone. It also affects their parents, siblings, friends, co-workers and most importantly their children. I know because the pain of divorce and separation has affected a member of my family. I have seen how the situation has affected the children involved. All children are vulnerable, but the children of divorce can be even more vulnerable. Marriage was never intended to be ended by man, “Let no man put asunder”.
Jesus knew that all those affected suffer in divorce, so it is no accident that Mark follows Jesus’ debate with the Pharisees, and as two weeks ago with the disciples about greatness, Jesus calls the little children to him. We can see as Jesus put his arms around the children, he symbolically embraces the whole human race and condition. He knows that divorce is sometimes necessary because of our human weakness. To the divorced, just as every person who is hurting, He offers insight, help, healing and forgiveness.
Jesus has a special fondness for the vulnerable that is why he held the debate with the Pharisees in the first part of this morning’s Gospel reading. One of God’s intentions for marriage is protection of the vulnerable-namely, women and children and Jesus placed women, children, and all vulnerable people on an equal footing with the rest of society. By doing so, he showed us that God’s love and God’s kingdom are for everyone.
Children by nature are trusting, naïve at times, and full of curiosity and wonder. They always want to know “Why?” (As those of us who are parents probably remember from our child-rearing days!). They have few worries, if any. They have an enthusiasm for life that we tend to lose as we get older. They have a sense that anything is possible. They trust other people implicitly. They have little if any control over their lives and entirely depend on their parents, family, and teachers. In other words, they are humble, just like Jesus teaches us to be humble.
I wish I could say that we adults are the same, but we are not. We have all been hurt in one way or another by some of our life experiences. We are left committed to fending for ourselves. But to know the love that Jesus has for us, we must let go of our need to control. In other words, we must travel the path that leads toward the innocence and trust that a child has.
We must be like children in our service to God. We must trust and obey Him without fail and live as children of God SHOULD live. In Jesus’ time, children were seen as nothings until they were old enough to be useful. Jesus appreciated and valued them for who they were and what they brought as children: A simple, unquestioning faith. A trusting view of life. A disregard for wealth and status. And taking pleasure in the smallest of things.
What is our outlook as Kingdom people on life, possessions, people, those who might be neglected? Shouldn’t it be like children. Amen.
The Rev'd Mo Lunn, St Mary Magdalene, Enfield, 03/10/2021