Preaching to Myself

I wasn’t alone this morning, and I certainly hope others heard the Good News in what I said, but there are times when the Lectionary throws up readings that I, personally, need to grapple with in order to hear the Good News afresh in the light of my own personal journey. Today was one of those occasions:

Genesis 2.18-24

Mark 10.2-16

+ May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of all our hearts, be acceptable to you, O God, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.

I have news for you.

I hope it won’t come as a shock

but

you need to be told

so if it does come as a surprise

I can only apologise.

Here it is:

I

am

not

perfect.

I,

a Minister in the Church,

am a sinner.

I tell you this

because,

when faced with today’s Gospel passage,

and the reality of my life,

it is necessary

to begin

with the

truth

of my own life,

of how the Gospel Truth

speaks

directly

into my life.

You see,

in case you are not aware,

I

am

a divorcé.

Worse than that,

according to the Gospel reading,

for

I

am

a remarried divorcé,

an adulterer,

as well as a divorcé.

I tell you all this,

not to shock you,

nor to seek pity,

not to make myself the focus

of this morning,

but to ensure

that we all

recognise

that

when the Gospel touches on

personal morality

it is indeed that:

personal.

It directly impacts

on people’s lives.

When we consider,

as today’s passages

require us to,

the ethics

of how we live our lives,

we are never,

ever,

speaking

simply

in the hypothetical,

the imaginary,

the made up scenario.

No.

Gospel ethics,

discussions on

Gospel ways of living,

speak directly

into the real lives

and real experiences

of real people,

like me,

and you.

And,

of course,

those experiences

can shape

our understanding

of what the Gospel says.

I could have stood here

this morning

and spent my time

examining Jesus’ reaction

to children,

or exploring

how the key

to understanding Genesis

is to both recognise

each and every

person’s uniqueness

and our need

nonetheless

to live in community

with other unique individuals.

I could have spent my time examining

what the Pharisees

were doing

when they questioned

Jesus

on divorce,

and how Jesus’

response

doesn’t begin with pronouncement

but with another question.

Or how Jesus’

conversation

with his disciples

afterwards

includes mention

of women divorcing their husbands,

an action possible under

Roman

but not Jewish

Law.

In other words,

I could have spent

this morning’s sermon

exploring Scripture,

raised all kinds of

questions,

suggested all kinds of

solutions,

and not once

given any hint

why I

might

come to the conclusions

I do.

Or,

I could have taken the standard line,

preached positively

about

the wonders

of marriage,

without you

realising

what I might be saying to myself.

You see,

I do find marriage wonderful.

Challenging at times,

certainly not always

romantic and easy,

but certainly

also

full of joy and wonder.

So often

we tend to think

that divorce

might put people off marriage,

or that divorce

somehow shows

a lack of respect for

marriage.

My own divorce

led to an even more profound

recognition

of the ideal of marriage

than I had before.

And it is remarkable

how many

divorcees

re-marry.

Yes,

sometimes several times over,

but because I do not know their motives

I take on trust

that each time they do

they are thinking

“This time.

This time

it really will be

‘until we are parted by death’.”

And what does this tell us?

I think it tells us

that Jesus

is speaking a Truth

we are required to hear,

and that we all understand

deep down:

that for those of us who are called to life

together

with another person

life-long marriage

is the divine ideal.

And here I note

that

we must recognise

that

the records we have

of Jesus’ own life

suggest that marriage

is not the only

divine ideal

for how we live

with one another.

Of course,

as Jesus notes,

we are human,

and sometimes,

even often,

we fail to

match up to

the divine ideal.

If we pay attention,

we note that Jesus

is not challenging Moses,

not denying the reality of what happens,

simply comparing it to the ideal.

Marriage is not the only place we fall short.

It is one of the places I have fallen short,

but it is not the only place,

and

it is

you

who will know

best

where

you

have fallen short.

It is

therefore

right that Communion services

begin with confession,

often with the Kyrie,

the request that God,

Christ,

have mercy upon us.

We recognise,

in Communion,

that we approach

the Table,

not because we are perfect

but because we seek to come closer to Christ.

One of my tutors

once described her view of Christ’s real presence

at Communion

with the well known phrase,

“We are what we eat.”

But it is not an instantaneous change.

We become more like Christ,

we become as God

as God became Man,

step by step,

morsel by morsel,

sip by sip.

I am a divorcé.

I am a sinner.

We are all sinners.

Yet through Christ’s death

and resurrection,

a death and resurrection

we both remember

and partake of

at this Table today,

we are all offered the opportunity

to experience,

for ourselves,

God’s radical forgiveness

and the desire

God has

for us,

moving forward,

to live out the divine ideal

whatever has gone before.

+To the glory of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

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About MendipNomad

I'm a nomad both physically and denominationally, but I'll always call the Mendips home. Currently a Methodist Presbyter (Minister) in Cornwall. I love sport, film, tv, socialising, politics (both US and British), and, yes, being part of the church.
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One Response to Preaching to Myself

  1. Pingback: My chains fell off | The Mendip Nomad

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