Mark 10: 2-16
2Some Pharisees came, and to test him they asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” 3He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” 4They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her.” 5But Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you. 6But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ 7‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, 8and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. 9Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
10Then in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter.11He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; 12and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”
13People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. 14But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. 15Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” 16And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.
This past week, I traveled to Bozeman for a clergy meeting. We had a key note speaker, training, and lots of time to collaborate and support each other. It was during this meeting that we heard about the incident in Oregon. As a group, we paused to pray.
Today is World Communion Sunday.
The key word for World Communion Sunday is communion, or unity. It is a day when we mark the almost universal Christian practice of breaking bread with one another and remembering both the night of Jesus’ betrayal—when Jesus instituted what we now call the Lord’s Supper as a lasting remembrance—and of Jesus’ sacrifice. So accounts of the last supper feature prominently, by virtue of World Communion Sunday being a celebration of the Eucharist. But there is a flavor of the Christian celebration of Pentecost as well, when people from around the Mediterranean world came together in mutual understanding and inspiration, by the power of the Holy Spirit. World Communion Sunday is a time for remembering that around the globe—in different languages, with different traditions and customs, and in various forms of liturgy—the Lord’s Supper is celebrated throughout Christendom. At its best, therefore, World Communion Sunday serves two purposes: it is both a joyous and meaningful partaking in Jesus’ sacred meal with his friends and a mind-opening exposure to different Christian traditions from around the world.
This means that people all over the world are celebrating Holy Communion today. We take time in awareness of our Sisters and Brothers in Christ, who are the hands and feet of Jesus in their own communities. Our table is set as we prepare to join in. The clothes on the Communion Table are from Angola. As you receive Communion today, I would ask that you lift someone in prayer from another community or even continent. Together, we will break bread and pray together for those who need God to lean in with them at this time.
In today’s scripture, we heard from Job. I’m asking that you hold that thought for now, as we will continue to hear from Job this month and I plan to speak more to the role and spiritual practice of perseverance at another time.
The gospel of Mark calls our attention today as we try to understand what Jesus says. The Pharisee’s are pushing and trying to trap Jesus at this point. They are cattle prodding him to see if he will say something that would look like treason.
Instead, he acknowledges the law and pushes back at them. He points out that women and children have been treated like property and that is not God’s way. He points out that their idea of an easy way out of marriage cheapens the experience of love. Jesus emphasizes the idea of covenant by vow and shares that relationships are sacred. Considering how women were treated in Jesus’ time, it helps to understand that Jesus was speaking more toward relationships and speaking out against old habits.
This passage has long been abused in some very serious ways to shame people. It’s important to understand the audience in which Jesus was addressing. The Pharisee’s are the leaders of the temple. They were generally wealthy. They were pretty haughty people and known as keepers of the law. They acted in some pretty despicable ways, and Jesus is very unhappy with them. Furthermore, when Jesus addresses them in this way, he is doing activism toward gender equality at that time. Relationship, not property, is his thesis. My guess is if religious leaders were to attempt to trap Jesus in questions today, He may very well respond quite differently in the words, but the meaning would likely be very similar. I can imagine a few ways, and I’m sure you can too. When he says the children may come to him, he is talking about people on the margins of society.
As we pray together today and join in Holy Communion, I ask that you consider those who may be on the margins in our own context: right here in this church, Columbia Falls, the Flathead Valley. Those who come to mind need our prayers.
In the hospital, I met a man named Thomas. He was kind-hearted and homeless. He had asked for prayer. When I showed up to pray with him, he asked for prayer for those who have no one praying for them.
In our global community there are many people who most likely fall off of prayer lists. These are people in the margins. Sometimes, we know how to care for these people, but most often, we rely on the many supportive agencies to do the caring work for them. Many of those agencies do really great work. But here it is, in the gospel message today, for our further consideration. What are some steps that you and I can take immediately to address the spiritual needs of someone living in the margins of society? What steps are easy? What are we allowing to get in the way? These are prayer prompts for your week as you begin to explore the gospel message in a whole new way this week. This is the word made flesh. When we find ways to live into the Kingdom of God, we are immediately rewarded.
Let us pray:
Loving God, We come to you this day with deep concern for those who are living in the margins this day. We give thanks for what we have and for our faith in you. Help us to discern the possibilities surrounding your word in our lives. Amen.