In 1992, my family on my dad’s side gathered together to celebrate my grandma and grandpa Ahles’ 50th wedding anniversary. In 1994, my family on my mother’s side gathered together to celebrate my grandma and grandpa Iverson gathered together to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. This year my parents will be celebrating their 32nd wedding anniversary. As you can tell, my immediate family experience is not that of a personal experience of divorce. Yet, I know that is not the case for everyone in their lives. Divorce is an all too real experience for many people in their lives. The statistic that I keep hearing concerning the divorce rate in the
It is no one’s intention to get divorced. Nobody gets married thinking that somewhere down along the line “I’m going to divorce my spouse.” Even the divorced person who really believes that he or she made the right decision sill feels the pain of that decision and will forever carry the marks of that relationship as who that person is has been shaped by that relationship. One of the things that we all experience is that at one point or another in our life we have all experienced the hurt and the pain that the presence of brokenness in our lives causes. No one intends to experience this pain, yet we all the same experience it. This brokenness is sin, but not sin that be placed upon any one single person. It is a sin in which forces that seem to be beyond our control play upon us, and we seem to be powerless to do anything about it. This same sin which causes our relationships to break down is the same sin which allows people to go hungry. This same sin which causes us to fall out of love is the same sin which allows the suffering of people to go on unchecked. This same sin which breaks apart families and friends is the same sin which allows us to only look at our selves and our own needs and not the needs of others. This is a systemic sin in which all the actions and inactions of all our lives leads to the suffering of other people. This sin is simply reality – not necessity, but reality.
Jesus knows this. He sees the Pharisees coming to him with this question to try and get Jesus to take moral judgment upon people who they think are simply wrong. Yet, when the Pharisees ask him this question, Jesus does not point to what’s morally wrong. He points to what is good and right. They ask him to make a judgment upon divorce, and Jesus says that it is good for a man and a wife to live in committed relationship with one another. Jesus knows that God does not intend for our relationship to be broken, but Jesus knows just as much that our relationships will be broken. Jesus has for some time now been trying to tell the people that are following him what he must do. He keeps on trying to get people to know that he has come for us. He has come for this people who are enslaved to sin and death. He has come to die for us so that we may be redeemed in our sin and brokenness and be forgiven for the things that we know that we do and the things that we don’t know what we do. Two times Jesus has foretold this to the people around him, and a third time is just around the corner.
So when Jesus says, “Therefore what God has joined let no one separate,” he is saying that God’s intention for us is that we would live in relationship with one another. He is saying that it is God’s intention that we live in community respecting the bonds that tie us together. He is saying that God intentions are wholly good, and it is only when our sin enters the picture do those intentions get distorted. Jesus does not come to make excuses for our sin, but he does come to forgive us of our sins. Jesus sees that we are a broken people makes for us a lament that cries out on behalf of us to restore us to wholeness and to restore us to righteousness. This does not mean that are to live in unhealthy situations, but he has come to us who are broken.
And so then, little children are brought Jesus so that he might bless them. If you are saying to yourself at this time that this turn in the story seems to be coming in straight out of right field, then you could be right. Yet, having this story of Jesus welcoming the little children into his arms is a wonderful moment of reconciliation and grace. These little children, people who were very much “the least of these” in Jesus’ society, are the ones who Jesus has come to bring into his kingdom of reconciliation and grace. It is in turning to these children where Jesus makes the bold statement that he has come to be our Lord, a Lord of Life, a Lord of Love, a Lord of forgiveness. It is wonderful to see that what really makes Jesus indignant amongst all this talk of divorce and adultery are foolish disciples who try to bar the way for the children to come to Jesus and receive his blessing. Sin is a reality that Jesus has come to address, but denying grace and forgiveness to least, the weak, the forgotten, the hurting is what causes him to make a clear statement about what people shouldn’t do. Grace and Blessing is something that Jesus will not let be denied. Reconciliation and forgiveness is what he has come here to do.
Bishop Pederson at the synod ministry retreat painted a picture of just who are these children who come to Jesus. He said that this image is one of the more beloved images of Jesus’ ministry as we imagine this scene more often than not with serene, peaceful little children who are quiet, respectful, and nearly angelic in the presence of Christ. I don’t know about you, but children are rarely quiet, serene, peaceful, and nearly angelic. More often than not, they are giggling, yelling, running around to and fro, getting into things, getting dirty, demanding this or that, or crying. Children are getting into fights with their siblings telling each other not to touch them or even breathe their air. Children come with bumps scrapes and bruises that only a gentle kiss can cure. Does that sound like any children you know? Yet Bishop Pederson went on. He painted the picture of children who are living in destitution, hungry, sick, or made to grow up in a way that we could almost never imagine for our own children.
It is all these children who Jesus scoops up into his arms. All these children who are dirty, poor, sick, scared, laughing, screaming, and playing. These are the ones to whom the