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Preaching on some tough readings

Preaching on some tough readings

Several preachers who share their thinking and sermons online mentioned that this week’s readings made challenging sermon fodder.

The Very Rev. John Downey of the Cathedral in Saint Paul in Erie, asks for help with his sermons almost every week in a You Tube feature called “This Preacher needs help.” Here is what he had to say this week:

Bishop Andy Doyle of Texas dealt with the readings as follows:

If we take a step back what we see is that God is constantly drawing people together. Mark’s Gospel is a gospel of the new creation a recreation of drawing people together. God is drawing people who are different together and Jesus is clear that we are the ones who defile these relationships. We defile marriage relationships and we defile communal relationships. We do this by turning away from the “other”. We are drawn away from the “other” into relationships that boost our power, our voice, and our authority. We engage in relationships that diminish the “other” with whom we are bound.

God is remaking a new community. God in Christ Jesus as bridegroom is recreating the world and his bride the community of “little ones” (the term Mark uses for the first followers of Jesus). So as we look and we read we must remember that the defilement of this wedding garment will take place with Peter at the cock’s crow. It will be the crowd who shouts “crucify him.”

The Rev. Steve Pankey, who blogs at Draughting Theology, calls our attention to one particular concept:

The keystone text for understanding Genesis and Mark this Sunday morning is a line we will hear read twice on Sunday morning. Its original context is found in Psalm 8 and it gets quoted by the author of Hebrews in his treatment of Angels in chapter 2, but I think it is the key for preaching God’s view on marriage, divorce, and the place of children.

“What is man that you should be mindful of him?” (Ps 8.5a, BCP) or for a more gender neutral reading, the NRSV translates Hebrews 2.6b as “What are human beings that you are mindful of them…?”

The answer is, of course, that human beings are the only part of God’s creation that were made in the imago dei. We bear within and upon us the image of God. We are chief stewards, the managers of creation. We are, for all intents and purposes, God’s best and most beloved handiwork, and because of this, God is mindful of us.

And because God is mindful of us, the things that happen to us matter to him. And because these things matter to God, the pain we feel is felt by God. And because God feels our pain, Jesus takes a hard line on divorce and exploitation.

God cares enough about us to bring a hard line on the choices we make.

Please add links to sermons you gave or heard int he comments.


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Clint Davis

Yeah, I’m sure that Jesus really meant that, if you make some bad youthful choices, you deserve to be lonely and single for the rest of your life. Yep, that has to be it.

Chris Arnold

The tricky thing is that fairly clear bit about *re*marriage resulting in adultery. It’s quite simple for me to preach with (personal) integrity that Jesus allowed for divorce. But when I start to say that it’s ok to have a follow-up marriage, I feel like I’m squirming around a pretty clear piece of community discipline.

Clint Davis

A couple of thoughts. Looking at this reading as a whole, Jesus is first of all telling us that women and children are not to be thrown away, and despite the fact that women cannot file for divorce in orthodox Jewish law, he nonetheless mentions women as divorce protagonists – though perhaps this phrase is added by Mark as a reflection of the Roman law of the day. Regardless, already this is a remarkable teaching that places women and children firmly within God’s kingdom and God’s concern, when previously they might not be.

Secondly, the phrase “Those whom God has yoked together humans must not separate” really puts this in perspective. Any two people can fall in love, plan a ceremony, buy a house, whatever. The social pressures to do just this are enormous, as are the pressures to just not be lonely. It is also easy to talk a priest into going along with it, but in all sincerity, the discernment period on this might possibly be as serious as that of discernment to holy orders. The world is littered with failed priests and failed marriages, and that’s more a consequence of our “sinful world” than sinful, deceitful people.

I have had a marriage in which the two of us had convinced ourselves and a priest that we belonged together, and we were both good people who lived uprightly and treated each other well. But as we went along – it all started less than a year after the actual ceremony – it should have been obvious that God had not yoked us together, but only we ourselves. 8 years later the house just went on the market and the final filaments joining us are merely a mortgage and a property, and the lessons learned. Meanwhile, I met the love of my life, and that’s a whole different animal. If I left him for another, that would be absolutely a soul killing adulterous mortal sin for which only the blood of heaven might atone. It wasn’t just a decision, nor an attraction, nor a balm for loneliness. This is grace embodied, and to walk away would be an act of disobedience (an inadequate word, really). THIS is what Jesus was talking about, not merely flower strewn “I do’s”.


I thought that Jesus was addressing the elevation of failure to the position of priority. Jesus reasserted the primordial principle, i.e., it’s all about love

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Jim Naughton

Torey’s sermon kicks butt.

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