Thursday, October 01, 2015

Proper 22 - Year B
Pentecost 19
Mark 10:2-16

“Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

Image result for jesus preachingI wish he hadn’t said that. Not that way. If Jesus is this matter-of-fact on the subject where does he leave my parishioners who don’t fit the mould? For that matter where does he leave their parish priest - himself a divorced and remarried man? This came up online with my pals during the week: “What are y’all doing with the unequivocal words of Jesus about divorce and remarriage in your congregations this Sunday?" Suggestion number one from Nigel – “Preach on something else. Psalm 8 perhaps”. It’s what a former Archbishop of Canterbury did a few years back on this particular Sunday, effectively dodging the bullet. Suggestion number two from Kenny – “Nah Rob; be a Scotsman and wade right in”.

“Okay, fab, Kenny! You’re a pukka Scotsman. Is that what you’re doing?”

“No, we’ve got Harvest Thanksgiving this Sunday. Different readings, the church decorated with squash and bulrushes – ‘We Plough the Fields and Scatter’ and all that jazz.”

Which leaves me alone, therefore, with a Gospel reading in which I am quite explicitly named as a malefactor - as are a selection of you reading this. We resemble that remark. It does no justice to the Scripture to imply that Jesus is doing anything other than underlining the sinful state of humanity: our humanity in general - yours or mine in particular this Sunday. If there’s to be a “Yes, but…” anywhere in the sermon let it come at the end rather at the beginning. Well-aimed arrows of judgement should not simply be batted aside at the outset. It wouldn’t be right. It wouldn’t be true. The death of our relationships speaks volumes about our weakness and our sin. Eh, voila! There we are - standing on sinners’ corner.

Sinners’ corner is the place where we belong – all of us. It will do no good to traipse up to Jesus, as some did during his earthly ministry, to say “You didn’t specifically name me, did you Jesus? I’ve kept the rules since my youth, haven’t I?” As will be explained to any who hold such misconceptions about being off the hook; the commandment against murder can be extended to anger and the commandment against adultery even to our fleeting lusts. Those who can remember the day and the year when everything came tumbling down – those who find they’ve been named in the 10th chapter of Mark – may here be the lucky ones. You never know. Don’t count yourselves too quickly amongst the sheep. Don’t assume that you’re the only goat in the room. It took the disciples far too long to arrive at the place where they could finally exclaim “Who, then, Lord can be saved?”

They would come to understand: This was not the end of the line. It was only the starting point