A Message from Ian Olver

When I looked up the lectionary a few weeks ago and found that Mark 10: 2-16, the passage about divorce, was the Gospel reading, the irony was not lost on me given the current same sex marriage debate. Divorce was a hot topic of the day but rather than seek his counsel the Pharisees were trying to trap Jesus into speaking against the teaching of Moses that they held as sacred; and Jesus did not disappoint them. Moses had said in Deuteronomy 24:1 that if a wife fell out of favour you could write a Bill of Divorce. In Mark, Jesus indicates that in effect Moses was trying to protect women who were regarded as just possessions against being easily discarded by men for any reason. He was introducing structure in that time, not issuing a permanently method for divorce. Jesus wanted those of his day to understand the context of Moses statement, that the joining in marriage was meant to be a lifelong bond and not something to be taken trivially. He goes further back to Genesis where the bond between husband and wife is to be stronger than between parents and children. In Mark’s time divorce, predominantly still only available to the man, could still be on trivial grounds. Jesus was restoring marriage by showing that God meant it to be a permanent bond which could not be broken by man’s laws and regulations.  There were no exceptions. But here again, in an object lesson those who just pluck versus out of the Bible out of context without interpreting them, Jesus had to explain Moses’ statement Furthermore, if you refer to the same story in Matthew 19: 3-9 Jesus does make an exception for adultery, since that has broken the bond and divorce is simply a consequence. This version is considered more accurate than the version in Mark.

My focus is on “what God has joined together let no-one separate”

Why would God join us together in marriage? It is not just for procreation but fulfils a universal human need to belong, as part of living life to the full. In attachment theory intimate relationships between human beings are what life revolves around and if denied anxiety and depression result.

So, how do we know what God has joined together? We have all seen marriages which end in divorce where it seemed there was a mismatch right from the start. It seems convenient to suggest that it was not a marriage where God joined the couple together. However, we often making decisions without trying to discern God’s guidance.

How do we approach deciding what God has joined together? Jesus gives us a clue in the second part of the reading where he puts the emphasis on children. Children are usually non-judgemental of others but simply trust people, they have humility and they show obedience.

We are facing 2 important questions about “what God has joined together”. One is around same gender couples and the other is around the Uniting Church itself.

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