Twenty-seventh Sunday 2006
I’m sure you know that there are two versions of the story of Creation in the book of Genesis. The first book of the bible. The one that may be most familiar is God creating the world in 7 days. In this version of the story, God speaks and creation happens. It’s a pretty neat and tidy description of the origins of things. This version which is actually written later than the other takes up the first chapter and the first three verses of Chapter 2. But then there is the second version. It is considered to be much earlier in composition. In this version it is not a matter of God acting from a distance but rather God gets his hands (metaphorically speaking) really messy. God creates the human person from the dust, the earth, the mud, the clay of the earth. You know what it’s like to play in the mud, or dig in the dirt or mold clay. IT’s pretty messy. This version of Creation stresses how messy things are in this world. Not so neat and clean. God even does mouth-to mouth resuscitaion with the human. Again not very neat and clean. And the description of the differntiation of the human into man and woman, the classic “rib” story is also not very neat and orderly. It’s pretty messy.
I hope you have figured out the theme of my preaching for today. Life is messy. God is right there in the mess of things. Of course we would like it if everything in this world, especially our relationships were orderly, predictable, everything in its place. But that’s not the way things are. In the gospel today, the Pharisess want to mess with Jesus. They want to put him to the test, so that they can say that he is not faithful to the law. Their interpretation of the divorce law is neat and clean. According to Moses, all that a husband has to do is write the decree of divorce and he can wash his hand clean of any responsibility to his wife. But Jesus responds in a way that refuses to make everything so arbitary and easy. He gives equal responsibility to the woman as to the man. Human relationships, especially one as intimate as marriage demand a genuine partnership. When God bind two together as one, it should not be a simple matter of one having the power to decide that they are no longer bound together. It’s interesting to hear this Gospel in the light of the Genesis reading. There God is separating, making two from one. Here God is joining, making one from two.
It is important to hear this passage, though, not as a condemnation of someone whose marriage has broken down. The Pharisees question is a legal one. And jesus responds with a reinterpretation of law. They do not ask him a “pastoral” question. More than anyone, jesus knows the complexity of the human heart, human failing and sinfulness. Jesus knows as well how “messy” things in life can get. What is missing from the question of the Pharisees and from Jesus’ response is anything that gives the human context of a failed marriage.
That’s why we have a church and pastoral people to help sort out the messes that we sometimes get ourselves into.