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First Impressions: Mark 10:2-16

September 29, 2009

The Gospel text at hand doesn’t naturally mesh with World Communion Sunday, so you may want to use one of the alternate texts.  The lesson from Hebrews could work well.  I will, however, continue in Mark, and will probably pare the first two paragraphs from the pericope to avoid the complex divorce material.  A shortened sermon for a Communion Sunday cannot treat the text with the care and compassion it deserves.  Instead, I will focus on verses 13-16, which uses children in a similar way—though with different emphasis—than two weeks earlier.

10:2-12 Divorce is a fact of life in our culture.  Everyone who hears this text will know someone who has been divorced or may have experienced divorce.  I have found that parents with adult children who have divorced are some of the most compassionate and understanding people when discussing this issue.  They have felt their children’s pain.

Jesus is directly addressing a legal question about divorce (v. 2-4), but then considers the personal dimension, as well.  Legally, the process is a matter of paperwork, but personally, it is the tearing apart of two people who have become one flesh.   The ties created in marriage are not based upon law, but upon personal relationship and the will of God (Lamar Williamson, Interpretation: Mark [Louisville: John Knox, 1983], 177-82.).  People who have experienced divorce know how painful this can be.  They will hear this text—and the words of the preacher—with different ears than a couple who has been married for 60 years.  Keep this in mind as you prepare.

10:13-16 Robert Capon reminds us that for Jesus and his crowd, children were not considered the cuddly, feel good creatures as our culture portrays them.  He writes, “Children were seen as losers,” and Jesus came precisely to save the losers.  These children represent Jesus’ people.  Only when we realize that we, too, are as lost as the despised among us are we ready to enter the kingdom (Robert Capon, Kingdom, Grace, Judgment [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002], 380-82.).

One of my colleagues will use the image of the children’s table at Thanksgiving (and I may steal his idea).  If you are sitting at the kids’ table, you don’t quite count.  The “real” table has fine china and that’s where the most respected members of the family sit.  The kids’ table is wobbly and probably has paper plates.  In Jesus’ topsy-turvy world, if you are not willing to sit at the children’s table, then you aren’t ready for the kingdom of God.  The catch is that we all really belong there.  We have no merit of our own that gives us the right to sit at the big table.

Yet even Jesus is found at the kids’ table.  He welcomes each of us there (think World Communion Sunday!) and redeems our lost, lonely lives.  As long as we keep striving to sit at the grown up table, however, we’ll never make the grade.

Are you going to tackle the passage on divorce?  If so, will you attempt to tie in the text with World Communion Sunday?  Where are you headed this week?

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