Date: Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost – October 3, 2021
Texts: Genesis 2:18-25; Psalm 128; Hebrews 2:1-13; Mark 10:2-16
Context: Life is a blessing from God. We do not own it, and we are mistaken when we believe we are free to arbitrarily create or end it on our terms. Disengaging life from the Creator is a dangerous path leading to unforeseen consequences both short and long term. We should rightfully leave life in our Lord’s hands, trusting in him rather than risking drifting away from him (Hebrews 2:2) into our own ideas and methodologies.
Genesis 2:18-25 – Although some prefer to read Genesis 1 & 2 as two separate accounts of creation, they needn’t be read in that way. Some read vs. 18-19 as out of order with the account of creation in Genesis 1, but this is not a necessary reading. God’s intent from the beginning was to have a suitable helper for Adam, and had already created the other creatures that were then brought to Adam prior to creating Eve. The relationship of man and woman as created by God is unlike any other relationship in all of creation, so that St. Paul can proclaim in Ephesians 5:32 that this is the profound mystery of human marriage – it echoes and reflects the relationship between Jesus and his Church. This passage declares the profound beauty in our created natures as male and female, and helps us look forward to when these natures will be restored to perfection individually and in relation to one another and our Creator.
Psalm 128 – The pilgrims move towards Jerusalem, lifting their spirits and passing the time with the citation of the Psalms of Ascent (Psalms 120-134 & characterized by the word ascent in their opening lines). They are reminded in doing so of the blessings of God, blessings both already received and realized and those yet to come. These blessings are understood to be part of the covenantal relationship, the proper relationship between God and mankind described in Genesis 1&2. In our fallen state this relationship (and these blessings) are experienced in a limited and imperfect sense. In this sense, this psalm can be taken as prophetic – these are the blessings we look forward to in our Lord’s return and our resurrection to perfected life.
Hebrews 2:1-13– I think the passage is fine ending at verse 13 instead of continuing on to the end of the chapter as the lectionary provides the option for. The emphasis here is also on what we look forward to in our Lord’s return, a reality glimpsed by those privileged to see Jesus after his resurrection. Salvation has come, but salvation can be lost Paul clearly indicates at the start of this passage. Satan is always working to pry us away from our faith and trust in Christ and lead our hearts and minds after other things. Paul cites Psalm 8 as evidence of the glory that is rightfully ours and which has been lost in sin, but to which we will be restored through Christ. Paul emphasizes Jesus’ incarnate nature and work on our behalf, by which we are privileged to call our Lord and Savior our brother. We have much to look forward to!
Mark 10:2-16 – Is it too much to read the first verse!?!?! Good grief! For the careful reader, this verse has meaning and helps explain the context of the question posed to Jesus. The geographical context of the Jordan River and Judea should remind us of John the Baptist and his fate as detailed in Mark 6. John the Baptist was arrested and ultimately executed for his stance on marriage that angered Herod’s wife Herodias (who formerly was married to Herod’s brother). Now Jesus is posed a question on marriage and more specifically divorce, likely with the hope that Jesus would run afoul of Herodias as well and suffer a similar fate to John the Baptist!
Jesus’ words on marriage are challenging in a culture where divorce is presumed a right and option by most people – including Christians! But if the marriage relationship is an echo or image or foreshadowing of the revealed relationship between Christ and his Church, we should not be surprised that divorce is prohibited. What God has joined together should not be separated, including by the participants. Some are quick to argue that there are cases where divorce is necessary – in the cases of abuse or negligence. While we would acknowledge that our sinful human nature sometimes makes divorce inevitable or even necessary, this does not legitimize it in broader application. Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 19 provides additional insight regarding when divorce is permissible – but even then it seems clear the hope and goal would be reconciliation and healing. A high view of marriage should be the goal of the Church, the congregation, and the married couple, and all levels of community from family and friends up through the congregation should be blessings and assets to married couples in helping them honor their marriage vows to one another and God.