Introduction & Welcome
Welcome to worship today, God’s gift to us because God is good! all the time!
and all the time! God is good!
Today’s gospel combines a saying that makes many of us uncomfortable with a story we find comforting. Jesus’ saying on divorce is another of his rejections of human legislation in favor of the original intent of God’s law. Jesus’ rebuke of the disciples who are fending off the children should challenge us as well. What does it mean to receive the kingdom of God as a child does?
Confession and Forgiveness
Blessed be the holy Trinity, ☩ one God,
whose teaching is life,
whose presence is sure,
and whose love is endless.
Let us confess our sins to the one who welcomes us with an open heart.
Silence is kept for reflection.
God our comforter:
like lost sheep, we have gone astray.
We gaze upon abundance and see scarcity.
We turn our faces away from injustice and oppression.
We exploit the earth with our apathy and greed.
Free us from our sin, gracious God.
Listen when we call out to you for help.
Lead us by your love to love our neighbors as ourselves.
All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
By the gift of grace in ☩ Christ Jesus, God makes you righteous.
Receive with glad hearts the forgiveness of all your sins.
Prayer of the Day
Sovereign God, you have created us to live in loving community with one another. Form us for life that is faithful and steadfast, and teach us to trust like little children, that we may reflect the image of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.
First Reading: Genesis 2:18-24
Genesis 2 stresses that people are not meant to live in isolation but in relationship. Out of love for humanity, God creates them male and female, to provide companionship for each other and to become with each other “one flesh.” The Hebrew words used here are ish (man) and ishshah (woman).
18The Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.” 19So out of the ground the Lord God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. 20The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every animal of the field; but for the man there was not found a helper as his partner. 21So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then he took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23Then the man said,
“This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
this one shall be called Woman,
for out of Man this one was taken.”
24Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh.
Psalm: Psalm 8
You crown us with glory and honor. (Ps. 8:5)
1O Lord our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
2you whose glory is chanted above the heavens out of the mouths of infants and children;
you have set up a fortress against your enemies, to silence the foe and avenger.
3When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars you have set in their courses,
4what are mere mortals that you should be mindful of them,
human beings that you should care for them?
5Yet you have made them little less than divine;
with glory and honor you crown them.
6You have made them rule over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under their feet:
7all flocks and cattle,
even the wild beasts of the field,
8the birds of the air, the fish of the sea,
and whatever passes along the paths of the sea.
9O Lord our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
Second Reading: Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12
Quoting from the psalms, this passage from Hebrews emphasizes that Jesus, the one through whom God created everything and who sits at God’s right hand, is also the one who experienced human suffering and death in order to blaze the path of salvation for us.
1Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, 2but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. 3He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.
2:5Now God did not subject the coming world, about which we are speaking, to angels. 6But someone has testified somewhere,
“What are human beings that you are mindful of them,
or mortals, that you care for them?
7You have made them for a little while lower than the angels;
you have crowned them with glory and honor,
8subjecting all things under their feet.”
Now in subjecting all things to them, God left nothing outside their control. As it is, we do not yet see everything in subjection to them,9but we do see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
10It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings. 11For the one who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father. For this reason Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters, 12saying,
“I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters,
in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.”
Alleluia. If we love one another, God lives in us* and God’s love is perfected in us. Alleluia (1 John 4:12)
Gospel: Mark 10:2-16
Jesus announced and enacted in history the new reality of God’s surprising activity. These two stories demonstrate this new reality: Women and children are accepted and valued, not dismissed as inferior to adult men.
2Some Pharisees came, and to test [Jesus] 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.
Meditation by David O’Brien
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, and bring glory to Your Name, O Lord. Amen.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus is talking about a topic that has affected my life. Divorce. Around fifteen years ago, my then wife of nineteen years and I divorced. Our marriage had problems for several years before that and I finally decided that I wasn’t doing my children any good by staying in a marriage that was so broken. This was a very painful time in my life and I’m sure it was in hers as well. As you all know, I have since married Joyce and we have been living very happily for almost ten years at the time of this writing.
In the beginning of the Gospel, Jesus discusses the law, agreeing with the Pharisees that divorce is legal, but the law was the result of their hard heartedness. However, he also tells His disciples in private that if any man divorces his wife and marries another woman, he’s committing adultery. Jesus words are reinforcing God’s intentions for marriage. That two people have a bond of love and responsibility to each other. Breaking those bonds is not something that should be done lightly.
In Jesus’ time, divorce was something that was much more easily done than it is today. All that was required was that the man, and just the man, write out a note stating that he no longer wished to be married to his wife and the divorce was complete. The reasons for divorce could be as simple as he didn’t like her cooking. Women who were divorced were left in a really bad way. They had no status, nor family, nor honor. If there were any children of this marriage, they stayed with the father because they were considered his possessions, just as his now ex-wife had once been a possession of his. In this strictly patriarchal society, she wasn’t even allowed to find a job to support herself. It’s small wonder to me that Christ had a problem with the idea of a divorce which is so casually entered into and which had such devastating consequences for one of the two people that were formerly in a marriage relationship.
But Christ also had some compassionate things to say about people who’ve been thrown away and treated as worthless. He knows that we were created to love one another and to be loved. During His time on Earth, Jesus ministered to broken people all the time. One of the first people that He had revealed Himself to was the Samaritan Woman in John 7, who had been married to five different men and was living with a sixth. This woman would have had at least two strikes against her due to her being a foreigner and her marital relationships. But Jesus found her acceptable to speak with and to ask her for a drink. I also think about the story in John 8, when the Pharisees brought a woman to Christ who they had caught in the act of adultery. By the end of the story, He declines to condemn her and tells her to go on her way and to sin no more. Christ’s whole life was about loving us and having mercy on us. All of us.
Marriage can be hard work and it’s a relationship that can be broken long before any divorce papers are filed. Some marriages can be abusive, and I don’t think that Christ wants any of us to stay in a relationship where we are mistreated. Sometimes one of the parties may have broken the bonds of marriage by being unfaithful. Addiction can also put a terrible strain on a marriage. The spouse of a person so afflicted is often mistreated and left with the choice of staying and feeding the other’s addiction (being an enabler) or leaving. I’ve heard it said that an addict has to hit rock bottom before they can recover. Perhaps losing that relationship is that low point where they can begin to rebound. Because of these things and many other factors, divorce may be the best option, maybe even the only option. But as with everything else we do, there are consequences. Relationships become destroyed, family and friends feel as though they have to take sides, and worst of all, children suffer.
There is conviction in Christ’s words, no doubt. But it doesn’t seem to me that Christ is labeling divorce as not being any worse of a sin than lying or being angry or not loving your neighbor. In fact, any sin that separates us from God has consequences. For us as well as those around us. But as we’ve been hearing the last few weeks, Christ is also more about Gospel. There is always grace with Christ, and He has forgiven ALL of our sins. As it says in the forgiveness section at the beginning of this service; “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. By the gift of grace in Christ Jesus, God makes us all righteous”. I pray that none of you have to experience divorce. But if you do, know that you are forgiven through Christ and have the strength to accept His forgiveness and to forgive yourself, as well as your former spouse.
Prayers of Intercession
Made children and heirs of God’s promise, we pray for the church, the world, and all in need.
A brief silence.
Holy One, you have raised up faithful leaders throughout history. Bless Daniel & Elizabeth, our bishops, and Howard, our pastor. Empower those discerning a call to ministry and all seminarians, that they continue to be formed for the sake of the gospel. Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
You have established a diverse and beautiful creation. Revive declining species and preserve endangered lands. Cultivate in us a sense of wonder for the world you created. Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
You desire for us not to be alone and to live in community with one another. Strengthen relationships between nations and peoples, that we celebrate and support one human family. Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
You share in our experiences and struggles. Bless all who live with any mental or physical disability. Inspire creative communities, spaces, and environments that are accessible and hospitable. Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
You have established and nurtured relationships that extend beyond those gathered here today. Bless members who can no longer travel to worship with us, especially those on our prayer list, and remind us of their continued role in this community of faith. Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
You promise eternal life to all your children. Thank you for the people of faith who have gone before us. Strengthen our trust we have in you. Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
Receive these prayers, O God, and those in our hearts known only to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Together, let us profess our faith using the words of the Apostles Creed:
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.*
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.
And now, as our Savior, Christ is teaching us, we boldly pray:
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come; thy will be done; on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever.
People of God,
you are Christ’s body,
bringing new life to a suffering world.
The holy Trinity, ☩ one God,
bless you now and forever.