19 Pentecost - Mark 10:2-16
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.