October 8, 2006 Speaker: Rev. Jack Meehan
Topic: Biblical Verse: Mark 10:2–10:16
Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Earlier this weekend, a marriage was celebrated in this sanctuary. The bride and groom, gathered here before this altar, pledged to one another their love and faithfulness, in good times and in bad, in sorrow and in joy, in sickness and in health, all the days of the life, until death parts them. And we who were privileged to witness this, prayed for the Lord God to bless their marriage, their life together. The same reading from Genesis 2 that we heard in today's worship service was also read at this wedding, as it often is at Christian weddings. Life together is the theme for today's message, as we hear about life together from God's Word in today's Scripture lessons: that life together to which God calls husband and wife in the covenant of marriage, and the life together to which God calls us in his beloved Son, Jesus Christ. The German Lutheran pastor and martyr, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, wrote a short book entitled Life Together, in which he lifts up the rich blessing of a shared life, a life together, which Christians are privileged to have, and in this book he states: "We belong to one another only through and in Jesus Christ" (p. 21). Through and in Jesus Christ, we are blessed not only with life, but life together with Him and with one another. May the Lord's rich blessing attend the preaching, the hearing and the living of His Word, for Jesus' sake.
There are many reminders that our world has deviated from God's original purpose for creation, and that our life together is a shattered dream of what God would have for us. The terrible shootings of Amish school girls and teachers in Pennsylvania, as well as the shooting of an entire family near Winchester, remind us how broken our world and our life together is. The blissful story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden in today's first Scripture reading almost seems like a fairy tale-so innocent and idealistic. Our world is not completely under the lordship of Christ, not by a longshot, even among God's people where home and family life are disrupted by selfishness, exploitation, separation and divorce. Jesus addresses this in today's Gospel reading as religious leaders try their best to set him up for a fall, to trap Him in His own words. Though the world and our own lives seem like they are spinning out of control, we are able to look to the future with hope because Jesus has entered into our broken world and into our own personal brokenness.
We look around today and we see individuals and families who are hurting and in trouble. We see parents struggling to balance the demands of work and home. We see children struggling to grow up in a world beset with the threat of terrorism, in a culture saturated with greed and "me first." Parents and children are fortunate if they eat dinner together once a week. We see individuals who are connected electronically, but still intensely lonely. We see individuals living with divorce. Jesus tells us divorce began with Moses who allowed it because of the people's hardness of heart. It's messy. It can be painful and ugly, even under the best of circumstances. The scars can be very deep because the wounds are often very deep, cutting to the heart. God's design for us is that we not be alone, as Scripture tells us in the book of Genesis: "And the Lord God said, 'It is not good that the man should be alone'" (Gen. 2:18). We were created by God to be in union, fellowship, with Him and with one another. And yet, despite our best intentions, we often feel so very alone. What of that life together?
We're talking about a stewardship of our loved ones-a stewardship of relationships between husband and wife, between parents and children, between family members, between single people, between members of the Body of Christ. Stewardship means managing something entrusted to our care. We often think of stewardship only in terms of money or time, but it's much deeper than that. Stewardship means managing all of God's gifts, so this includes managing our relationships with those people God has placed in our lives. This is a sacred trust because it involves people-the crowning glory of God's creation, made in God's image but a little lower than the angels (Psalm 8). Do we give this sacred trust, this stewardship of loved ones, the attention it needs and deserves? The attention they need and deserve? It's so easy, particularly in this area, to get caught up on the treadmill of life, maintaining an exhausting schedule through which we become ships passing in the night. Just for today, forget about the yardwork, the grocery shopping, the housework, the chores, all the things on your "to do" list. Just for today, give yourself wholly to your spouse and rejoice in God's gift to you, even as Adam rejoiced when Eve was brought to him. If you are a single person, rejoice in the family God has given you, and in the friendships by which the Lord blesses you. Pick up the phone and call that family member you've been out of touch with. Reconnect with that friend. Just for today, focus on each other.
The post-modern age in which we live where tolerance is everything and where truth is relativized, would have us believe that marriage is no longer between one man and one woman. There is a strong movement underway to change this so it includes marriage between two men or two women. Scripture clearly speaks against this. It is almost expected that couples will live together before marriage, even among practicing, church-going Christians. In fact, most couples believe this is the best way to find out if they are compatible with each other. The truth of the matter is that living together before marriage greatly increases the risk that the marriage will break up. People are always surprised to learn this. More than this, though, living together does not honor God who calls us to lead a sexually pure life within the covenant of marriage. "We belong to one another only through and in Jesus Christ."
In today's second reading (Hebrews 1:1-4, 2:5-12), we read: "As it is, we do not see everything in subjection to them [angels], but we do see Jesus." We do see Jesus, and when we see Jesus, we see how much we really need Him. Because our stewardship of our loved ones leaves so much to be desired, because our own relationships fall far short of God's design for us, we have a very deep need to see Jesus. Though we have messed up our marriages, we do see Jesus. Though we have not loved our family members as we should, we do see Jesus. Though our stewardship of loved ones is often based on selfishness and hardness of heart, we do see Jesus. We see Jesus, who stretched out His arms upon the c ross to take our failings, our shortcomings, the evil we have done and the good we have failed to do, our sin, upon himself. He died for our transgressions in order that we might be transformed into something new-into little children! He tells us, "Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it" (Mark 10:15). Though we do not see everything in subjection, we do see Jesus. He is the One who makes all things new again. The Lord Jesus, who loves us with an everlasting love, desires that we come to Him with simple, child-like faith; trusting in His promise of forgiveness and new life. We do see Jesus, and because we see Him, we come to Him with open hands, turning ourselves over to Him, ready to receive the blessing of His love so that our life together may be renewed and strengthened to serve Him. Amen.