[First in series: “Service Make a Difference”]
This morning’s reading in the Lectionary actually begins at Verse 2 and includes Jesus’ teaching about divorce. Particularly in today’s cultural climate, this text can be – and is being – used to fuel the fires of the debate on same-sex-marriage. Jesus is answering a specific question about divorce law; he is not talking about a definition of marriage for a 21st Century audience. We will talk more about that in a minute, but, it is not the story I want us to focus on this morning.
I am more interested in the little story that comes at the end of this reading. This is a story about God’s kingdom and how challenging it can be for us to live-in to it. It is a story that reminds us that Jesus introduces us to a kingdom that disrupts the status quo. I believe it is also about how we must prepare ourselves to serve as Jesus served.
Let us pray…
Holy God, we pray that you will help us to see your kingdom work in the world around us and that you will lead us to walk with you and engage the work you are already doing. Lord, gives us ears to hear your words today and hearts to put them to use. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
I’m going to ask you to do something this morning. I want you to think for a moment and tell me about how you encountered Jesus this past week. Think of a chance encounter; something planned or unplanned; a moment when somebody showed you the face of Jesus. This is not rhetorical…[Wait for responses] We’re gonna call these things “Jesus Moments” and we’re going to talk about them every week. I believe if we spend some time each week recognizing Jesus moments in our lives we will train ourselves to notice them more often. We will begin to see the Face of Christ all the time and will change the way we view the Kingdom of God here…now…at work all around us. I believe that developing our ability to recognize “Jesus Moments” requires us to change the way in which we view the world. We need to be able to see everyone and everything around us through the eyes of a child.
Just try to imagine that for a moment. Children haven’t yet learned to view the world through the editorial filters that we have. As they look around, they discover new things all the time. Lots of different things catch their attention; small things that we may not even notice anymore. They greet each day with surprise and excitement. They never tire of engaging new people and new places and new activities. Children tend not to notice things like the difference in skin color that we see. They tend not to see status in another person’s appearance. Children see people, not enemies. Differences are intriguing, not threatening. Children embrace the variance, not the sameness.
Now, please do not mis-hear me…I am not talking about our need to teach children about “stranger danger” and a healthy care for their safety. What I am talking about is us trying to see the world with the innocent eyes of a child.
What might be different if we looked at other people without the bias that is built into our vision? What would change if we approached our community with excitement, looking for fresh, new ways to engage the world around us? Could our mission increase and grow beyond our walls if we looked up with eager anticipation of what God has in mind for us today?
Now, I said we’d come back to the first part of the reading, the part about divorce. What I want to point out is this: In Mark 10:2-12, Jesus responds to a specific question and discusses marriage between a man and woman. However, other types of relationships are not mentioned and are not related to this conversation at all. It seems that Jesus really intends to move beyond a rigid, legalistic approach to marriage and divorce, toward an understanding of God’s purposes for marriage. Jesus has some pretty strong words to say about divorce; but we need to hear this in the context of Jesus’ deep respect for the deep bond of any loving marriage. Once again, I believe we hear Jesus looking for ways to steer the Pharisees from legalism toward love, forgiveness, and mercy. I believe Jesus is leading us toward theological discussion, not timeless, unbreakable law. I believe that this text – both the teaching on divorce and the call to act more like children – shows us the disruptive work of God through Jesus Christ. He challenges the rigidity of the ruling church establishment. He asks us to throw off the trappings of our adulthood and act more like the children we hardly remember in ourselves. Jesus turns things upside down by making us face the difficult realities of the Kingdom of God – NOW – with all its messiness.
As adults, we have learned to view people and their circumstances in ways that often lead to marginalization. Jesus uses this text to tell us that women have the exact same rights as men. He teaches us that children are to be valued and nurtured, not abused and ignored. He expects that these models can then be transferred to other people and other circumstances as we begin to understand who really matters in the Kingdom of God – ALL PERSONS.
This text is about equality and hospitality – qualities we must embrace in order to serve God’s Kingdom. Once again, I think we can better understand this and all of Jesus’ teachings when we approach them from the perspective of a child who is totally dependent on God. We do not have all the answers, any more than a child does. We have much to learn and our learning will never be complete. We must be willing to approach God’s teaching with awe and a hunger for new discovery, rather than thinking we already know all the answers. If we are to prepare ourselves to serve God’s kingdom, we must begin by letting go of our adult hubris and come to Jesus with the open arms and open minds of a child. Acting like children will help us to see the world around us in fresh, new ways and we will begin to recognize “Jesus Moments”. Acting like children will allow us to step out fearlessly as we seek to engage the Face of Christ in the people around us. Acting like children will bring us the blessings of Jesus as he “takes us up in his arms, lays hands on us, and blesses us.” In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.