When It’s Tough

Job 1:1; 2:1-10

Mark 10:2-16

Wow talk about a loaded scripture week. When I asked Susan to preach little did I know this was going to be the lectionary scriptures for this week. These passages may seem very scary at the onset, but I can assure you that they are not as scary as they look and actually convey a powerful message I think all of our society needs to hear. As I read our gospel reading for today I think about the society we live in, and not really the society of Ashland but the society of the entire world. It is riddled with views of so many couples who just cannot seem to work it out when times are tough. We see celebrity or high profile couples on the news daily, getting married then some time after getting divorces. How are we supposed to see what a good marriage looks like when we are constantly exposed to marriages that always seem to fail? When something bad happens, our society resorts to divorce as their immediate response. It seems that long gone are the days where a married couple sits down and has a discussion about what is going on in their marriage and areas where they could improve and be better spouses to one another. This is the problem we encounter when Jesus is asked about divorce in our gospel lesson today. Our gospel lesson begins with Jesus being confronted by the Pharisees. The Pharisees are always trying trying to make Jesus say something wrong, and in the latest installment of “Lets stump Jesus” is the topic of divorce. However, Jesus is well versed in the Hebrew texts (much like any good Jewish teacher) and knows how to articulate those scriptures. He answers like he most often does…with a question. We find out that Moses had commanded that divorces be granted for any reason a husband could conjure up. However, Jesus continues and retorts back with quite the quote many people today can see present in our divorce system. In verse 5 Jesus says, “because of your hardness of heart he (Moses) wrote this commandment for you.” He then goes on to talk about the beauty of a man and woman who are joined together in marriage and that no one should separate that which God has joined together. It shows that marriage is this beautiful institution where two people are joined together to represent their love to each other. They are committing their lives to one another; to spend eternity together as one. Jesus is trying to tell people the importance of marriage within these few statements. And he effectively flips from the Pharisees question about divorce and turns it into a discussion on marriage, a discussion on healthy marriages . If only we could turn our discussions of divorce in society around to more discussions on marriage and healthy marriages at that. But how do our relationships with our spouses or significant others compare to our relationships to God, and how does knowing about our relationship with God help us with our relationships. Well to answer that we must look towards our Hebrew Bible passage read earlier in the service today and look towards the Book of Job. Wow does’t that sound exciting looking to the Book of Job for marriage advice. Most times when we think of Job we see a story of human suffering where a man is wondering why God is punishing him, but today we are going to focus on Job’s relationship with God. In this passage from Job, that was read, we see that Job is being tested by Satan and he is experiencing great pain. However, when Job is encountered by his wife he is urged to curse God, or in terms of our discussion for today divorce himself from him, but he does not. Job realizes that all relationships have problems and difficulties. Job is slow to cut the line in this relationship with God, because he does not understand the reasoning and is slow to pass judgement on God. Much like we should be slow to cut our relationships with our significant others. It is something we have to work for and discuss with the other person. In my preaching class we were tasked with coming up with a parable of our. One of my friends came up with a great parable about marriage that I thought went well with my sermon. Marriage is like a farmer who is cultivating a garden. The first thing is to find the right seed. It is process in which the farmer takes time and spends many hours in prayer over the seed. The farmer may go through several seeds before he finds the right one that should be cultivated. Once the farmer finds the right seed, he begins to nurture it. It takes a lot of time and energy to plant the seed in the beginning and watch it start to unfold and sprout. Then the farmer replants it in the fertile soil and continues to water and make sure that it gets proper sunlight and shade. As the plant begins to produce fruit, this is the time for the most care and protection from the elements and insects. Nature and the world can attack it in a variety of ways from the blistering wind, harsh rains, and even bitter frost. But the farmer realizes that this is the time that it needs the most care and protection. The crop brings a harvest year after year. Whose who heard this teaching asked the teacher what the parable meant. He replied, finding your suitable helpmate takes time and energy. And though we may date several people in our lives, there will be one for us to care for. We take that relationship and we spend time in care and the building up of that relationship. This is that “honeymoon” period where all is going well, but when the plant is replanted in the garden and it is left to the elements of the world around it that is the beginning of the harvest. This is when marriage takes the most time and effort. The world is out to destroy relationships and marriage and many just give up, but this is when we are called to preserve and protect when the cold winds blow. If you will do like the faithful farmer; then you will reap a bountiful harvest. This saying that a relationship like marriage is not always gonna be easy just like our relationship with God. It is something we have to nurture and care for just like we would with a plant. One of the primary reasons for divorce in some fashion or another ends up being our differences. But it is not just our differences that solely cause relationships to fail, but instead a failure to recognize and work through our differences that can cause relationships to crumble. I have been married for about four months now to Sara and in beginning our marriage we begin to learn and work through our differences. For example I am a very extroverted person while Sara is a more introverted person. She understands that when we are in public I enjoy talking to people and often staying around and conversing after we go to events. However, in knowing her and that she is introverted I also keep in mind that she does not enjoy things like that as much as I do so I often try and keep my conversations short. This is a difference that we both acknowledge and we both work to make it a difference that we live with because we love each other. As told in the parable, marriage is a plant. Plants can be very fragile just like our relationships. However, as a plant grows it becomes stronger and more able to handle the elements better. Just like our relationships with God our relationships with  our significant others are not meant to be taken for granted and to be so easily thrown away. Jesus doesn’t want us to throw away our relationships so easily. So we need to keep in mind as we watch these many celebs that our relationships cannot be reflective of theirs and we need to be more willing to talk about our differences much like we talk about our differences with God. So I challenge us to not only think of all of this in terms of our marital relationships, but to keep this in mind with all of our relationships in our lives. Just like marriage we cannot be so easy to get rid of our friends. We need to talk through all of our differences and do not let difficulties and problems come in the way of having authentic relationships with people. As well we need to slow to judge God as well. WE need to remember communication is the key and we should talk through everything that happens in any of our relationships, and that is how we can truly allow our relationships to flourish.

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