Reading Ramblings – October 7, 2018

Reading Ramblings

Date: Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost, October 7, 2018

Texts: Genesis 2:18-25; Psalm 128; Hebrews 2:1-13 (14-18); Mark 10:1-16

Context: What pertinent verses for the events of these past few weeks! How far we seem to have drifted from the idea that man and woman were created for each other, for partnership with each other. How far we have run from the idea of complementary gifts and abilities and skills. Humanity is reflected fully only in the combination of man and woman together, but the curse of sin sets us at odds with one another, struggling for control and dominance. All is not as it was intended to be, but we still bear a reflection – together as man and woman – of God the Father who created us, the good that this denotes, and the joyous reconciliation we look forward to through his Son!

Genesis 2:18-25 – God knows full well that Adam is not enough, but he allows Adam the opportunity to discover this for himself. Man needs a partner, and woman’s very existence presumes one. The idea that we don’t need one another, or that we are ultimately enemies is a dangerous and damaging one. We are created for one another and to work with one another. Eve is the suitable helper, as most translations opt to convey the Hebrew. Is man sufficient without woman? Of course not – that’s the whole point of these verses! Is woman sufficient without man? Of course not! Does the fact that we are created for relationship with one another diminish either? No, it enhances us. Has sinfulness led some to interpret helper as inferior? Tragically yes. But this is not the Biblical assertion. Man and woman require one another. We are best when we work together, and either one striving alone is not optimal. To presume that we are interchangeable is to deny the very created differences that make us beautiful and special and reflections of God himself.

Psalm 128 – Family life is a blessing from God, a continuation of the species and a joy to parents and children alike. Family functions best with man and woman working together as God intended. This is not to say that single parents don’t work hard and admirably to care for and raise their children. But how much harder is it to work alone rather than together! God intended for family to be a blessing, a place of joy and growth and safety and love. Sin and brokenness sometimes interferes with this, so that the original plan is almost so obvious as to be forgotten. Right relationship with God results in right relationships with those around us, starting with those closest to us.

Hebrews 2:1-18 – Paul (the presumed author), having dealt with the proper relationship between the Son of God and angels, now distinguishes between humankind and angels in terms of the benefits of the Son of God’s salvation. We are brothers and sisters with the Son of God because of his Incarnation. In assuming human form, humanity is rescued from the inside out by the wisdom of God the Father. Paul wants to make clear that it is humanity (and through humanity all of creation by extension) that Jesus came to save. While other Biblical passages hint at humankind’s role in showing or demonstrating the power and wisdom of God to spiritual powers, the benefit of God’s wisdom is ours, not theirs.

Mark 10:1-16 – The lectionary actually leaves out verse 1 but it provides us with some important information in terms of where Jesus is teaching. He is in the old stomping grounds of John the Baptist, who we were told in Mark 6 was arrested and executed for speaking out about marriage. Obviously this is a sore topic for Herodias, the wife of King Herod Agrippa. It seems highly unlikely, then, that the questions asked of Jesus are random. More likely they are intended to cause Jesus to say something controversial that will land him in a similar situation to John the Baptist. But Jesus will neither be silenced or tricked.

The Jewish rabbis taught that Moses granted permission for divorce (Deuteronomy 24:1). Jesus clarifies the rationale for this permission – the protection of women. Men might otherwise abuse and neglect their wives by turning them out of the house without any evidence of divorce, meaning they could not remarry and would be reduced to begging to survive. The divorce certificate gave a divorced woman evidence that she was no longer married. Perhaps this might also be helpful for her in getting assistance from her family.

But God’s intention from the beginning was for man and woman to live together in marriage without divorce. Marriage is something deeper than a decision by a man or a woman or family units. Marriage changes those involved, so that they are no longer two but one. Adam was incomplete without Eve. Even could not exist without Adam. Only together did they form one humanity. God intends marriage to be according to his dictates and to last for life.

Jesus goes on to explain to his disciples that divorce creates adulterous relationships. Matthew captures Jesus’ fuller teaching on this in 5:32 and 19:9 where Jesus indicates that adultery can be grounds for divorce. This has been extended somewhat by the Church to also include cases of neglect or abuse – situations where one or both spouses are betraying their wedding vows just as certainly as if they had committed adultery.

Marriage is a serious arrangement that cannot be ended lightly without the risk of compounding sin on both parties. Those who commit themselves to one another are to take their vows seriously, as they reflect God’s original will for humanity. While sin sometimes necessitates divorce, we can never justify divorce as somehow acceptable or God-pleasing. It is a sin and the result of sin. Those who have divorced can seek forgiveness for the sin of divorce, trusting in the death and resurrection of the Son of God to provide forgiveness. The Church should take seriously the importance of encouraging and supporting couples in maintaining their marriage vows.

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