Sermon preached on October 7, 2012
Scripture (Lect 27b): Gen 2:18-24; Heb 1:1-4, 2:5-12; Mark 10:2-16[audio http://www.myohmydesign.com/theNarthex/Uploads/2/Sermons/20121007%20Sermon%20Beyond%20Broken.mp3]
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The “Reality Check” Rule
I have a rule that I try to live by. Sometimes it’s a real pain, but it’s important to me as a preacher & Christian. At some point it became a non-negotiable for me that the good news of Jesus that I trust in and preach about would be nothing more than blowing smoke or blind naïveté if it didn’t honestly connect with reality. I don’t have time for a version of Jesus that doesn’t come right down into the world as we know it–a world that is broken;perhaps even beyond broken. Sometimes it’s a hard rule to live by.
I was reminded of this rule as it tripped me up once again this week as I read the words of Jesus saying “Let the little children come to me.” These words often conjure up heartwarming images of Jesus himself giving the world’s first children’s sermon. This week, however, I found myself reading the words “Let the little children come to me” while my heart was gripped by an image printed on the pages of my newspaper and displayed on my Facebook feed. An image of a father sobbing as he held the lifeless body of his son in the aftermath of bombings in the Syrian city of Aleppo. A moment of anguish that I can’t even imagine. As a father, I can’t bear to.
It’s the kind of moment that can leave you questioning everything. It can leave you trying to make sense of the senseless, wondering why God would allow such a thing to happen. Leaving us either to give up on the idea of God altogether or clinging mindlessly to the notion that “God had a reason” for this to happen.
We don’t have time for a version of Jesus that doesn’t come right down into the world as we know it. A world that is broken; perhaps even beyond broken.
Relationship vs. Control
Sometimes as we try to discern God’s role in our broken world, we find ourselves wanting God to be in control. But scripture tells us differently. Listen to the words of our second lesson from the book of Hebrews:
“What are human beings that you are mindful of them, or mortals, that you care for them? You have made them for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned them with glory and honor, subjecting all things under their feet. Now in subjecting all things to them, God left nothing outside their control.”
Scripture tells us of a defining moment in the relationship between God and humanity: God’s decision to leave nothing outside of human control. God’s choice to be in relationship with us instead of being in control of us. From the beginning of the world this was the case. We marvel at the words of Genesis, as God creates every living thing for one reason: “It is not good that the man should be alone.” We are meant to live in relationship: relationship with others, relationship with God.
After describing God’s desire to subject all things to human beings–to leave nothing out of their control, Hebrews continues with these words: “As it is, we do not yet see everything in subjection to them.” As it is, we as human beings have not gained control of everything. In fact, we have found plenty that we cannot control, leaving us clinging to the possibility that God’s plan is bigger than what we see. As it is, our world is beyond broken. God put the world into the hands of human beings, and we broke it.
The Brokenness of Divorce
The brokenness of our world shows itself often and clearly in our relationships with one another. It didn’t take long after God created the first human relationship for brokenness to enter the picture. The gospel reading we just heard from Mark chapter 10 makes it clear that all the way back to the time of Moses the reality of broken relationships was prevalent enough to require the legal distinction of divorce.
Not one of us is untouched by broken relationships. I would be surprised to find that there is even one of us reading this that has not has not been affected by the specific brokenness of divorce. A divorced relationship in our own life or the divorce of our parents, or our child, a sister, a brother or friends.
The reasons that divorce happens are many and varied, but there seems to beat least two things that are true of divorce in every situation. The first one being that no one ever plans a wedding with the hope of someday divorcing. We never enter a relationship with hopes of one day breaking it. The second thing that seems to be universally true is that divorce is painful. In every situation, divorce brings a pain that is like no other pain. In the book Eat Pray Love, author Elizabeth Gilbert mentions a friend who likens the experience of divorce to “having a really bad car accident every single day for about two years.”
As it is, our world is beyond broken. God put the world into the hands of human beings, and we broke it. As it is, human beings have not gained control of everything. In fact, we have found plenty that we cannot control; plenty that leaves us clinging desperately to the possibility that God does have a plan, and that it is bigger than what we see–that God does have a plan, and that it is bigger than what we are capable of.
The good news is that God’s plan is bigger than what we see. God’s plan is bigger than our broken reality. But, just as it was from the very beginning of the world, God’s plan is not about God being in control. It is about God being in a relationship with us. Hebrews follows the words “As it is, we do not yet see everything in subjection to them” with “but we do see Jesus”:
“We do see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For the one who sanctifies & those who are sanctified all have one father. For this reason Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.”
Jesus is God’s plan beyond our brokenness. Because of Jesus, we can be children of God. Because of Jesus we can be in relationship with God. “The one who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one father.”
The Abrupt Shift: from divorce to invitation
Perhaps there’s a reason that the Gospel of Mark goes directly from the pain of divorce to Jesus welcoming little children. As we look at a reality that is beyond broken, in our world & in our own lives. Jesus says to us, “whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” Perhaps the word we need to hear as we face the reality of brokenness is this invitation to enter the kingdom of God. The invitation made possible by Jesus.
In order to enter, we are told, we must receive the kingdom “as a little child.” A little child is not capable of being defined by their past. A little child is someone whose entire life is ahead of them. We are invited to receive the kingdom as people whose entire life is ahead of us, no matter how much is behind us. We can look ahead with hope in Jesus instead of looking back with regret or anger. We look ahead to a kingdom where the hurt is healed, where brokenness disappears.
As it is, our world is beyond broken. God put the world into the hands of human beings, and we broke it. But we do see Jesus. We do see God’s plan–God’s kingdom. And because of Jesus, we can trust that God is present in our broken world. We can trust that God did show up on the streets of Aleppo, Syria. God walked through the smoke and rubble to where a father wept and said, “let the child come to me; do not stop him; for it is to such as him that the kingdom of God belongs.” Come to me, my child. The kingdom of God belongs to you. Even now, your whole life is ahead of you. And he took him up in his arms, laid his hands on him, and blessed him.
Because of Jesus, we can also trust that God is present in the broken places in our lives: in our broken homes, our broken hearts, our broken plans and broken dreams. For as long as we wear this human skin, we will struggle to make sense of the senseless. We will struggle to endure our brokenness. We don’t have time for a version of Jesus that doesn’t come right down into the world as we know it.
But the good news of the gospel is that God’s new reality has been opened to us. A new reality that is beyond what we see now. A new reality that is beyond broken. Because of Jesus, you and I are invited into a faith journey that doesn’t ignore the hard realities of life. We are invited into a faith journey that doesn’t pretend that we are not broken people in a broken world.
You are invited into a faith journey that meets you wherever you are today and will carry you forward to a new reality that is beyond broken. Because of Jesus, we can receive that kingdom–and enter that kingdom–just like little children: with our whole lives ahead of us!