This afternoon, young disciples from across the valley will descend upon Founders Hall for the first confirmation class of the year, the first in person in nineteen months.
After studying the Bible last year, this year we will focus on theology, anchored by Luther' Small Catechism, which some of you memorized once upon a time.
For those of you who didn't, or forgot, Luther begins with the Ten Commandments and provides a brief explanation to each one of them that make them easier to understand ... and harder to follow.
You shall not murder, for example, a commandment we've all broken.
Even if you've never killed anyone—never even swatted a fly—you haven't always lived all the way up to God's intention Luther summarizes: We are to fear and love God, so that we neither endanger nor harm the lives of our neighbors, but instead help and support them in all of life's needs.
Beyond each negative is a daunting positive.
While we search the law for loopholes, God searches us for holy love.
That's what's at the heart of this week's difficult gospel: not a legalistic prohibition against
divorce that gets twisted into a blank check for domestic violence and abuse and misery; not a feel good story about Jesus being sweet to kids; but Christ confronting the chronic human tendency to see what we can get away with and who we can get away from.
Now on his way to his cross, Jesus isn't having it.
He calls out the Pharisees for weaseling out of sacred promises and then calls out his
disciples for turning away children like unwanted wives.
But he's not just chewing people out.
He's lifting people up.
Biblical culture was the opposite of the movie Titanic.
(Spoiler alert: the boat sinks.)
Social priority was women and children last.
Adultery could only be committed against men.
Divorce could only be initiated by men.
Children, meanwhile, had even less voice and value than women; they were liabilities
likely to die before becoming useful contributors to the family.
So both women and children were extraordinarily vulnerable to the decisions of adult men like the Pharisees and the disciples.
Jesus isn't having it.
He pushes past Moses to God, who created male and female to be one flesh.
He teaches his disciples that it is possible for a woman to divorce her husband, to be just as
powerful and responsible and accountable as a man.
And then he implores his disciples to learn from lowly children: it is to such as these that the
kingdom of God belongs.
Truly I tell you, which is what he says when he's serious, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.
Until we are powerless, until we are helpless, until we are vulnerable and dependent and open, until we are so far down the food chain that we have nothing to protect and nothing to lose, we can't receive the kingdom.
Our tragic addiction to being somebody will trip us up, most likely into the trap of comparing ourselves to others and jockeying for social position and worthiness and making sure we're in, which means someone is out, which means we are not in the kingdom of God.
In the kingdom of God, no one is disposable.
You cannot shoo away children or spouse or even idiot disciples.
You cannot diminish or discard women or men or refugees or opponents or enemies or criminals or anti-Christs or anyone else.
No one is disposable.
Can we begin our conversations about abortion and war and immigration there?
Can we begin our day there, looking in the mirror at the face and body we've been taught to hate, looking across the room at the family and workmate that annoy us, looking into the screen at the words of someone so wounded and insecure that they are wasting their time trolling you, looking into the eyes and stories of our neighbors to see a soul that Jesus died to save?
No one is disposable because everyone is created in God's image, and battered by a cruel world, and undervalued by others, and yet so wildly beloved and treasured by God that Christ goes to hell and back to save them...Apostles Creed, Article Two.
This is most certainly true.