A Lutheran Says What?

Sermons and random thoughts on God, the world and the intersection of the two

Broken Pieces Sermon on Mark 10: 2-16 October 9, 2018

This sermon was preached at Bethany Lutheran Church on Oct. 7, 2018. It can be viewed on http://www.bethanylive.org.

The texts for this Sunday were Mark 10: 2-16 and Genesis 2: 18-24

Gather the children up front and ask them if they have ever had a favorite toy or other object break. How did they feel about they broken toy/object? Was it able to be fixed? Sometimes yes and sometimes no. Not all things can be fixed. This is a bracelet that a dear friend made for me about 14 years ago. I loved it so much and wore it all the time! But then it broke. I didn’t fix it but I’ve kept all the pieces all these years. I sometimes feel like this bracelet looks, all scattered in lots of pieces. Do you ever feel that way? Feel like one of your broken toys? What helps you to feel better?  We all get sad about things breaking, friends moving, or someone no longer being our friend. Things break, sometimes our friendships break and our hearts break too. In our Bible story this morning, there were some people who wanted to Jesus to tell them that some people are too broken for God to love and accept. Jesus instead says that God is all about putting us and our broken hearts back together. Jesus says God wants our hearts, our lives and US to be whole, to be loved and to know that we are important to God. In our Genesis story we heard about God creating people to be together. I handed out to some of you pieces of a big puzzle, let’s put it together: it’s a big heart! We needed all the pieces to make a whole heart! What happens if I take a piece away….yep, it’s not whole. We all matter to God, God understands that our hearts get broken and sent us Jesus show us how God’s love makes us whole again. God, through Jesus, takes broken people and the broken world and makes us whole. We tell each other about this promise of God, like Jesus did in our story, by giving blessings. Jesus blessed the children by a safe touch-on the head or hand-and said words of love to them. Can we say words of love to each other this morning? How about “you matter and are loved by me and by God.” As you go back to you seat, tell the adults around you “you matter and are loved by me and by God.”

We all know what it is like to be broken and we can feel like this bracelet. And we live in a society that tells us to throw away broken things as they don’t have any value and we then extrapolate that to ourselves. It’s been a long week for me of hearing about brokenness. I had jury duty on Monday and the case was sexual assault on a child and those of us in the jury pool were asked to disclose our personal or familial experiences with sexual assault or abuse. All day long stories of pain and brokenness were spoken. I wanted to cry at many points overwhelmed by the sheer preponderance of pain. Then there are the two young people who died by suicide this week from Arapahoe High School. We can only guess at the brokenness that those young people were experiencing and our hearts break with their families and friends. And then the Lutheran Church of Australia once again voted down the opportunity for women to be ordained revealing the brokenness of even religious institutions. And then there is the brokenness being played out on the national stage this week. No matter where you may be on the judicial hearings, we can all agree that this is human brokenness and pain spilling out into the hearts and minds of an entire nation and it’s not what God intends for anyone. I won’t lie, my pastor heart is weary this week.

We all want to have value, worth, to be heard and believed and so we work hard to hide our brokenness or pretend like we’re not. We cover up our pain with anger, blame of others, or we over work, over eat, over drink, over shop, over exercise, or over sleep. Yet, we have these passages this morning that make us look differently at what God does with broken pieces, our pain and systems that devalue some people while over valuing others.  Unfortunately, this Mark passage, as well as the Genesis text, has been misused in the Church and culture to perpetuate brokenness and pain. We forget that these are ancient texts from a particular time and place and aren’t meant to be taken literally in our context today. Marriage simply doesn’t work the way today that it did 2000 years ago, as it was about clan alignment and property.

It also helps to remember that these stories are a part of a bigger story, God’s love story to us. The creation story of humans in Genesis was never meant to form a hierarchy of importance or to limit what people or relationships could look like and our English translations aren’t overly accurate. “Helper” or Ezer in Hebrew, is used in the OT several times and most often refers to God. It means “divine help”, not subordinate help. And “partner” better translates to “correspondent” or “equal.” This is a story of the creation of togetherness in humanity. God takes a piece from the first human, adamah which means dirt, and isn’t actually gendered as male, and creates a second human. Only with the creation of the second human do we get the creation of gender. God creates community from pieces. The now male and female, created equal, are also created for one model togetherness, but not the only model of togetherness.

When the Pharisees asked Jesus questions about divorce, they are looking to test him about this “togetherness.” What happens in divorce Jesus? They were trying to isolate Jesus from gaining any more traction with the crowds, as Mark tells us that people are listening to Jesus and flocking toward him. Jesus’ ministry addresses the isolating pain of ordinary people’s everyday challenges, personal and systemic, head on-healing the sick, casting out demons, returning the unclean to community, providing abundant food from scarcity to fill bellies. Jesus is creating community, togetherness, and not just any kind of community, but community where all matter, all have a voice (especially those who are on the outside of society-women and children), no one is isolated by social or religious laws and brokenness and fear don’t have the last word. You see, Jesus takes the question of divorce and turns it into a statement about God’s desire for togetherness-for all people. In God’s definition of togetherness-all matter, all are needed to create the whole. There is not anyone who is outside of God’s community and it matters how we treat one another.

Jesus is also pointing the people and us to the cross. Jesus knows this is where he is headed because of the brokenness of humanity as both the Roman Empire and the religious institution are more concerned about power, authority and control than on the dignity and flourishing of God’s creation. When Jesus gathers the children to him for a blessing, Jesus is foreshadowing the gathering of all creation through the cross. Jesus himself will be bodily broken, holes in his feet and hands, pierced in his side. Jesus tells his disciples this fact at the last supper, when he says, this is my body broken for you. My body broken so that you and all of creation can be made whole. Redemption and reconciliation, means God using pieces, broken pieces of us, of our neighbor, of systems, to create wholeness, Shalom wholeness where all people know that they matter, that their brokenness does not make them outside the beloved community of God, but central to it. Our brokenness becomes the beautiful mosaic of creation where God is at work healing systems of injustice and pain bringing us together for the sake of the wholeness of one another. I am not whole without you, and you are not whole without me. We are not whole without the people in Denver, and they may not know it, but they are not whole without us. This is the blessing from Jesus, the words of love offered from a manger, from the cross and from the empty tomb. This is the blessing that Jesus gives the children and we are called to give each other and to all people no matter if we agree with them, can accept their brokenness and pain or not. We might feel like this bracelet today, but this brokenness is not the last word from our redeemer, healer and savior.  We are created for wholeness and to be together in love for the blessing of each other and the world. Hear Jesus say to you: You matter and are loved by me and God.

 

 

It’s Not About Divorce, Genesis 2: 18-24, Mark 10: 2-16 Pentecost 19B, Oct. 4, 2015 October 5, 2015

Dirt-Hand-980x600

I am a Lutheran gal who loves the Hebrew Bible. I love it because of the richness of the literary genres, the messiness of the history, the complexities of the relationships with God and each other, and the grace that drips from each word from God who never leaves God’s people. Basically, if you want a good soap opera, read the OT. I also love it as it reminds me that there is nothing new under the sun. There is deceit, mistakes, vulnerability, violence, indiscretions, agendas, sorrow, joy, paradox and confusion. That sounds like a just another day in our humanity doesn’t it?! And of course, there are laws, we call them the 10 commandments and all of the “laws” that are in Deuteronomy and Leviticus.

The commandments and all of the laws spelled out were intended to help us as humanity plagued by all of the drama I listed above, to remember what we read in Genesis 1 and 2: God created everything, including us, and we are created in God’s image, which is love. Everything in the Bible that happens after Genesis 2 is about humanity’s grappling with God declaring creation and us good, God desiring relationship with us, God desiring us to be in loving relationship with one another. In our Genesis 2 reading, it’s the story of how God created the female. In reality, it’s the second account of how woman, came to be. Genesis 1: 26-27 is the first account which explicitly states that humans were created in the image of God-male and female God created them. Genesis 2 is the second account of creation and God recognizes the loneliness of the earthling man, Adam. Adam was created from the humus, the dirt, and so is a human, literally an earth creature.  God wanted to create for him a “helper.” Now this word gets mistranslated. Any other time that this word for “helper” appears in the OT it refers to a divine helper or to God. So God is making Adam a “divine helper,” not a lesser being, not an afterthought, not someone to do what Adam does not want to, but a divine helper-so divine that this earth creature created in God’s image will continue with creation within her own being.

So bound together are the two earth creatures, that God declares no one will be able to tell them apart. They will appear to be the same and of the same mind, soul and spirit. They will be one. God’s intent for all of humanity-earth creatures-is to be one. Not just married people, but all people. But we know the next piece of the story and sin, brokenness, shame, separation and hurt enter into the relationship of the earth creatures. God created oneness, wholeness, equality, and love. We stumbled onto individualism, separation, hierarchy and hate. God was grieved when we stumbled, but didn’t leave us, didn’t give up but began right then and there redeeming and transforming the earth creatures to live into their true divine image.

But we love the law-we love the law so much that we took 10 commandments and turned them into 617 purity laws to follow. We loved the law so much that we would rather uphold the rules than love and forgive our neighbor. We get stuck in worrying about if we or other people are following the correct laws in the correct way. We worry more about who’s in and who’s out of God’s love and grace than stopping to take the time to see that’s not even the what God wants us to worry about. In Mark, the Pharisees are testing Jesus about the law. It didn’t really matter what law they picked, but they picked divorce. It could have been a law about unclean food, although they had already tried to trap Jesus on that one, so divorce it was. It’s unfortunate, as we now read this passage and assume that it has everything to do with the actual action of divorce, when in truth, it has nothing to do with divorce but has everything to do with refocusing to Genesis 2: we are all created in God’s image for one another but we fail to live into that promise.

It’s not an accident that the writer of Mark moves right into Jesus blessing children and highlighting the importance of everyone to God, even those who in our society and culture have no importance. Jesus is breaking the crowds open to their own love of the law, supposed order and rules instead of God’s order of inclusion, love and transformation.

We saw firsthand on Thursday our love of the law above everything and everyone else. The tragedy that unfolded in OR, had unfolded 274 previous times this year, some with media coverage but most without.  Mass shootings are so prevalent that media can’t even cover them all and only cover the events where the toll on humanity is so horrific that it can’t be swept under the rug. The conversation in the wake of the loss of life on Thursday immediately turned to law. We need more gun laws, fewer gun laws, more laws for helping those with mental illness, regulations on campaign funding by special interest groups like the NRA, more laws on how media covers such events. Now, I’m not here to shy away from taking a stand on these issues, and you may or may not agree with me and that’s ok too.  My father was in the military and I grew up around guns, I’m not a Polly Anna about this, but they were called what they really are in the military…weapons. Guns have one purpose, none other; they are to inflict harm on another of God’s creatures. The conversation is about more than guns, it’s about how we kill each other in so many ways. While I don’t own a gun and will never own a gun, I am just as entangled in the culture of violence, entitlement and hardness of heart as anyone. By living in the U.S. with all of my privileges, I participate in systems everyday that lead to the demise of someone else in the world.

But I will also say that laws will not completely stop this. Maybe it will help but laws don’t transform someone’s heart, mind and spirit. Laws have never been able to do that. Jesus points to the vulnerable children to remind the adults that they were once vulnerable and non-important to society too. Jesus is reminding the crowds gathered and us of our common humanity, our common earthiness, our common creation in God’s image. What transforms us is God’s work begun in Genesis 3 of reconciling all of creation that is now broken, divided, hurting and literally bleeding, back to God. What transforms us is God’s love for all of us. God desires transformation so deeply that God walked among us as Jesus, suffered violence, murder and death-shared in our common humanity-to be raised and to raise us to our common eternal life in God.  We each have God’s divinity in us as evidenced in the two creation stories-we have what we need in us to allow God’s transforming Spirit to fill us, to move us, and to gather us again as one people, divine and equal helpers for one another.

You see, we, like the Pharisees, think that we can regulate relationships, we can put laws on divorce, LBGT brothers and sister, gender rules, racism laws or all of the other ways to try and keep each other in what we consider a proper box. We are complicit in systems that leave some marginalized and forgotten. We forget Genesis 1 and 2 where we are made from dirt, all of us and God gathers us dirtiness and all, for deeper, mutual relationship. This means that we are bound to one another in messy, invasive and uncomfortable ways no matter what laws we enact. We are so bound together that we are one body, one flesh in Jesus Christ, that we partake in each time we gather through bread and wine that crumbles in messes to the floor and spills out all over us. We are so bound together that we do what is best for our neighbor and not only ourselves. We are so bound together that we are called to quit fighting about laws and we simply love and allow God’s transformation. We are so bound together that we must move beyond prayers to actions for true unity and oneness with each other and Christ. Our actions don’t save us but they do point to and reveal to the world that salvation and wholeness that God freely gives for all.

It’s messy, hard and God is present. We must go back to the beginning to see what God has planned for us for eternity. Let’s be as children and allow ourselves to be gathered in Jesus’ arms and not worry about what the law says. Let’s refocus to God’s plan from the beginning of creation: God’s plan that includes you, me, all of us together as one, filled with the transforming love of God, now and forever, amen.