2009-09-27 by KAREN HUNDRIESER
To quote Dan Dick's words in the Journal writings for this week (goodpreacher.com): "Sins come and sins go." I grew up sure that divorce is sin. I am divorced. I never claimed to be perfect (only striving as a good United Methodist does), so I'm okay with that. My wise mother told me to take the time to figure out what had gone wrong before jumping in again. 27 years later I'm still checking 'divorced' on all those silly forms. What brings us to the place of divorce? Hard heartedness. Not because a law was broken or because one party has "the" reason, the one that fits into a legally acceptable category, in order to ask for a divorce, but because of hard heartedness.
Divorce does not separate two who have been joined. They may feel ripped apart for a time, but they are not two separate beings as they were before the marriage/commitment, even if they never managed to become "one". You never forget, that "other" is always there, good or bad, they are always a part of your life, part of your life's story. Maybe separated legally, but not in many other ways. Families are dishonored in the process, in Jesus' time and even now. Things that you thought you could rely on are no longer. There is a lot of pain in the acting out of hard heartedness. (But still sometimes we have to go through with it, we have no choice.) Like many others who have written on this, I agree that divorce is not sin, but hard heartedness most assuredly is.
Let's go back a minute - once again Jesus is being tested by folks who still haven't figured out that they're thinking/living on a different plane than Jesus. They are concerned with the law. Jesus is not. Jesus is concerned with peoples' hearts and minds and attitudes. Jesus is concerned with community. Jesus is concerned with foundational things, going all the way back to creation. Jesus' response says something about being made to be in partnership, in community, in friendship, in covenant with one another.
And he also says that honor belongs to women as much as it does to men. So does dishonor.
And he says, "Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate." This is one of those lines that most people have memorized from the marriage ceremony. It intrigues me after mulling over James and community for some weeks.
What God has joined together. My cynical self says that most marriages have nothing to do with God, but rather with hormones or money or something. My other-extreme side says that God has brought everything together. If that's true, then we are to separate nothing. Not community. Not marriage. Not covenant. There must be a middle ground and perhaps it is found in the answer to what is God's purpose for our being together, is there a purpose, and are we living that purpose? And the ultimate question, have we really been joined together by God? Or does something else hold priority in our being together?
Let no one separate. How have we prepared ourselves for this? I wonder today how we have prepared people for marriage/commitment (from childhood on). Does our partner/marriage counseling address our culture's false independence/individualism? Do we help our children to be self-assured, confident and ready to disagree peacefully? Can we love another or others who are different than we are? Can our relationships, our community deal with changes in economics in healthy ways? How have we addressed our competitive ways which are bound to spill over into our relationships? What does friendship mean? What are we doing about domestic violence on all levels? (October is domestic violence month) Are we willing to listen to another's struggle in relationship and find ways to teach and nurture understanding and peace? Can we do that also for our faith community - God certainly had a hand in bringing that together too...
2009-09-27 by David von Schlichten
Today I preached on the gopsel, focusing on the teaching that we are to cut out of our lives whatever causes us to stumble. I went on to proclaim that one attitude that causes us to stumble is that which excludes others from God and the Church. I encouraged people to be more inclusive, including with respect to themselves.
A fifteen year-old parishioner, Alex, told me that she thought the sermon was great. Hallelujah!
How did Sunday go for you?
Yours in Christ,
David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator
"Lectionary Homiletics" Highlight; Rochelle, Stephen; Loving Politicians
2009-09-24 by David von Schlichten
"Preaching the Lesson": In Lectionary Homiletics Alyce McKenzie does an incisive job of helping us to appreciate the context of John's concern about outsiders using Jesus' name. She highlights the absurdity of John's exclusion and the stunning pulchritude of Jesus' inclusive response.
As I think on this passage and its stretching inclusivity, I turn to the homosexuality issue. While many are quick to declare that open gays can never be pastors, Jesus suggests otherwise. Even openly gay people can cast out demons in Jesus' name.
Thank you to Rochelle Stackhouse for her guest blogging and to Stephen Schuette for his usual helpfulness. Their work leads us away from competition among religious groups and toward drawing together to get done the work of the Church. Please scroll down to read their posts, and then add one of your own.
Politicians, Too? I live an hour from Pittsburgh, and our area vibrates with the excitement of the G-20 Summit. I find myself thinking about politicians, and how legions of us are quick to mock them, belittle them, stereotype them.
Is it not true, however, that even they can cast out demons in Jesus' name? Are we not too quick to dehumanize and exclude politicians as corrupt beyond hope? Does not Christ's shocking inclusivity demand that we be more inclusive toward this group that we Americans love to loathe?
Yours in Christ,
David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator
Cutting Things Off!
2009-09-24 by Rochelle Stackhouse
The first thing I need to say about Mark 9:42-48 is: HYPERBOLE! So much of scripture is metaphor meant to drive home a point, and we go and take it literally! The ancient church Father, Origen, struggled with sexual temptation and, reading this passage, decided to castrate himself. Let's reconsider this because I don't want to just ignore this reading for fear of what it might drive people to do.
Who is Jesus speaking to here? Not the crowd, but his disciples, those very disciples who had been going around arrogantly telling people who were healers that they shouldn't heal in Jesus' name if they weren't part of the official "disciples." He has just told them again he is headed toward death, and Jesus must have had a hard moment here knowing that soon the whole future of this venture would be in the hands of this group of leaders! How to get them to understand that as leaders they needed to lead in a new and different way? They would need to sacrifice their need to control, their arrogance, their need for privilege of position! As he said in last week's passage, they needed to become servants.
So this isn't about people in general sinning in general at all. It is about leaders understanding that they are not responsible only for their own lives, but for those whom they are leading, and for those not yet in the group but who might be called by God and given gifts for service. It's about not putting stumbling blocks that would cause others to lose faith.
It's another way of trying to get the disciples to see that it's not just about "Jesus and Me," but about community. To be in community sometimes meaning sacrificing one's own desires, privilege, etc. for the good of others. "Have salt in yourselves and be at peace with one another." Yes, be who you are with your own giftedness, but be who you are and at peace with others, those already inside the community and those you might not think should be, but God has other ideas.
2009-09-23 by Stephen Schuette
The more I consider it the more I think the allusion to an army that is sent to maintain order fits this text, or at least a Crossan/Borg reading of the text. There's a kind of gang language here: "Hey, Jesus, we met a competing gang and we tried to protect our turf." (Or is it corporate, brand-name language? Or denominational language?) The disciples were transferring a Roman idea of order and exclusiveness onto Jesus’ ministry - an it's-about-us mentality. Jesus responds by saying if your hand or foot or eye is serving an order that is not of God’s making, get rid of it! These are liberating words to a conquered and occupied people. Commit yourself to God’s reign and know wholeness. Jesus refocuses the attention on the internal, spiritual struggle. That's the real battle ground. It’s not about fighting “fire” with “fire,” or raising an army to fight an army, or even competing with others involved in the effort. It’s about aligning your own goals and objectives with God’s and not fighting God…who does not want you to fight others for God's sake. The Pax Romana is no peace. Peace begins with your wholeness with God, giving yourself wholly to God. The "dominion" is of a different kind and grounded in God. So the message is to free any part of you that serves another dominion. The movement is not about competing with each other in the group (last week's text) or competing with others "outside" the group. What would it mean if our "gang" insignia really is the cross?
There's certainly room for this message in this embattled, competitive age...many directions to take with the hermeneutical thrust.
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