The texts today speak about love and marriage, reminding me of the theme song from the first Fox TV hit “Married with Children.” Many of you would know it better as a Frank Sinatra song originally used by Frank Sinatra in 1955 for the television production of Our Town, a play by Thornton Wilder.
Love and marriage, love and marriage, Go together like a horse and carriage. This I tell ya, brother, you can’t have one without the other.
Love and marriage, love and marriage, It’s an institute you can’t disparage. Ask the local gentry and they will say it’s elementary.
Try, try, try to separate them, it’s an illusion. Try, try, try and you only come to this conclusion:
Love and marriage, love and marriage, Go together like a horse and carriage.
Dad was told by mother you can’t have one You can’t have none. You can’t have one without the other.
Quaint 1950’s sentiment, hardly reflected in a world when according the U.S. Census only 48% of American households are married. The institution of marriage is an illusion for many, As quaint and antiquated as a horse and carriage. Today 20% of households are “traditional” families, that is married couples with children. We live in a world where broken relationships, abused partners, divorce, and abused children are as much the reality today as they were in Jesus’ day.
The texts today are less about the institution of marriage and divorce laws, as they are about justice and love. Jesus calls us out on our selfishness, and our oppression of those who are powerless. In the beginnings of Genesis and the time of Jesus, women and children were considered property of the man. And marriage was between a man and a woman because marriage was a baby-making institution, it had nothing to do with love, it included multiple wives, and slaves because the survival of the small and fragile tribes and kingdoms of the time depended on it.
A divorce could be decreed by a man for any reason, he was bored, one of his wives burned dinner, bore daughters instead of sons, or wasn’t able to bear children at all, the absurd list goes on and on. And children were to work and support the household, they were property, they were not the center of parents lives. Children were to be seen and not heard and in the Mark story today, the disciples try to keep the children away from Jesus, because that was the custom of the day.
But Jesus calls out… men, the institution marriage, the practice of divorce, the disciples and all who push aside fellow human beings to the margins, from women, to little children. Jesus values all people, and while Jesus lifts up love and marriage, he lifts up love and the value of relationships most of all. Jesus calls us out to live in love, to live with a personal and communal responsibility that does not throw away relationships, regardless of who they are between, and above all, does not throw away people.
We are to welcome all. We are to value all relationships. We are called to lives of love and to lives of justice that work to defend all the defenseless. The relationships of our lives are all build on love. We do not control, as much as we think, or would like…
- Who we are drawn to in relationship;
- Who we are friends with; and
- Who we fall in love with.
Relationships… whether between similar “two peas-in-a-pod” individuals, or two “total opposites” are largely a mystery. What attracts us, what compels us to live life together as family, friends, or lovers, and what caused challenges, pain and brokenness in relationships are also often a mystery. But regardless of the mystery and messiness, we are called to relationship, to share our hearts with one another and with our God, who is love and desires nothing more… than to be in relationship with us.
Jesus calls us out on our idealistic views about what makes a perfect child, family, friend, partner, or spouse. Jesus calls us out on our hardness of heart. Jesus names our selfish, sinfulness that places self-love at the center of our worlds and disposes of others to the trash heaps and margins of our lives as hard-hearted. Jesus is not saying that there are not times when ending a broken or abusive relationship is needed. Jesus reveals that there is a place for divorce because of the hardness of the human heart.Broken relationships are always caused by sin, and regardless of who’s heart hardened causing the brokenness, that brokenness is always counter to God’s creational intention.
God calls us to be in balance. To be in relationship with God (a vertical relationship) and one another (horizontal relationship). This cross-shaped living is not news, I’ve preached on it before… but Jesus focuses and reminds us of this way of life again and again. Hardness of heart happens, but it happens less when we are in relational balance. Love, that mysterious and messy thing, good gift and challenging choice, is sustainable only when our hearts and lives are in balance with God.
Loving our God, ourselves, and one another is God’s will and way. It is shown through the ultimate symbol and sacrifice of the cross. Our creator loves us so much that God pursues us and comes to us. In the flesh God gave Jesus, God’s Son to live as we do, to experience love and loss, and ultimately to die for us, so that all that causes our hearts to harden may be forgiven. That we may be given fresh hearts each day, cleared of our selfish, sinful thoughts and desires to love anew. And to guide our days, bringing the mystery and majesty of love in all its forms, and God gives us the Holy Spirit of love that is God to stay in our hearts and sustain us each day.
There is no illusion, our God who is love, accepts, values and welcomes all people softening hardened hearts with abundant mercy, steadfast love, and amazing grace regardless of who we are, or whom we love.
- When our human bonds are broken, God gives us grace and heals us still.
- When we confess our human failures, God forgives us and grants us peace.
- When we think we are not worth loving, God loves us and sends us new beginnings, softens our hearts and gives us faith, hope and love.
Thanks be to God!