Preaching Your Own Sermon
Divorce. As soon as that word is uttered many people will preach their own sermons to themselves without me having to say a word. The theme of each sermon will depend upon your experience of divorce. For those who have never experienced a time in their lives when their closest relationship was in peril, they will hear Jesus’ words as the ultimate expression of companionship and relationship. However, within the subtext of this sermon is heard that a failed marriage, or even those who have never been married, indicates a undesirability about who they are, not only in the eyes of others but especially in the eyes of God. The conclusion to their sermon is the God-given supposition that we should all do our best to live up to this ideal of marriage and when we fail, shame pours in upon us.
But for those of us who have walked through the dissolution of a marriage, our sermon may be dominated with words that describe anger, defensiveness, sadness or even, possibly, relief. The narrative of the sermon will be dominated by a sense of failure and fault, of shattered dreams, by unworthiness and a profound and potent belief that we are unlovable. No matter how amicable the separation may be, your sermon script will contain elements of loss, inevitable emotions of loneliness and heartache and the endless wonder if there was something more you could have done to save the marriage. The postscript is one of inadequacy.
So many sermons being preached. It just may be that Jesus’ sermon on this subject is a little different. Jesus never comes to us with his hands empty. This week, his hands are still full with holding the same child he held last week and the week before. The Pharisees pose their question to him in an abstract way. “If a man were to divorce his wife…” If a man… any man… some obscure man. Jesus takes this question out of abstract and makes it subjective. “What does Moses say to you? What do you think Moses is telling you? What sermon, Pharisees, are you preaching to yourselves?”
I believe Jesus suspects that the Pharisees want him to reinforce their positions as males who have the right to divorce. Listen to how Jesus responds. “If a man should divorce his wife…” But Jesus says, “If a woman should divorce her husband.” What? Wait a minute here. Women have no such power to divorce. In a world where a wife can be divorced because she burns her husband’s toast in the morning, how in the world would she ever be given the power to divorce her lord and master, the head of the household?
So what is Jesus’ preaching to us this morning in order to help us find our way to heaven? With child in arm, Jesus, once again, is protecting the vulnerable. He is asking us to lift the vulnerable, the children, the poor, those without status, to the same considerations we give to the powerful and elite. He is asking us to consider how a broken relationship affects them. He is asking us to level the playing field and not let them be forgotten or become collateral damage in these broken relationships for every life, great or small, is precious in God’s sight.
All things bright and beautiful
All creatures great or small
All things wise and wonderful
The Lord God made them all.
Jesus is preaching a one point sermon here: we must always protect the most vulnerable in our society. It is sermon we would be wise to embrace today.
My soul wept this week, as I am sure yours did, as the President of the United States mocked Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. As President, did he not take a sworn oath to protect all citizens of the United States? Whether he believed her or not is not the issue. He is pummeling this woman’s self-esteem for his own political advantage, to get the support of more Republicans and to hear the roar of the crowd in his own ears. It is any wonder women don’t feel safe telling their own stories?
Jesus is calling us to protect the vulnerable, not exploit them. Doug Ford was in Calgary yesterday participating in a rally to get the Federal Government to withdraw its Carbon Tax. As of April of next year, we will no longer have the Drive Clean program in this province. This will save the tax payers $64 million a year. When the present U.S. administration first took power, they cut the budget for the Great Lakes Environmental Protection Program by 97% and increased military spending by threefold. Coal-powered generating systems, which were shut down by previous environmental assessments, are now being opened again.
Yes, some in the present generation will hail these as victories with lowered taxes and more jobs and the politicians will wave to their cries of support. But are these leaders not sworn to protect all their constituents, even the most vulnerable among them, especially the most vulnerable among them.
What kind of a world will we be leaving our children? Our generation, and the ones that went before us, is responsible for the raping of this world in our desire for material comfort. Is it not our responsibility to lift up the needs of the vulnerable, albeit their rights to clean air and water and a healthy sustainable planet, to be as important as the needs of those who desire power? Should we not pay whatever it takes to make this a better world for them?
When tragedy enters the life of anyone, our role as disciples is not to refuse them access to the hands of Jesus. Instead, we broken people are invited to be healed by the hands which are holding on to a child. People need to hear that the church will not abandon them in the midst of their struggles. Their community of faith will not excommunicate them because they don’t live up to an ideal we have been preaching to ourselves.
Instead, we will become a source of strength in a relationship that will uphold them, support them, love them, even the least among us, even the most vulnerable. Without this faith, this hope, we are simply living lives of absurdity.