Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Reflectionary thoughts and a sermon with no title

Spending alot of time thinking about this weeks Lectionary- for those who do not know I practiced family law for 22 years before entering seminary. But in my own family tree, divorce and heartbreak are pretty rampant. At the same time I am seeing this week's lesson not so much for the easy to grab onto- man and woman=marriage, or what do we say about divorced people or even only the treatment of women and children in society. These are all worthy of conversation but what about the larger picture of all the ways we cut out and cast off in relationships while God says it's not good to be alone? Right down to the techno savvy debates about friending and unfriending and following in Facebook and Twitter (though this last bit is probably lost on most of my flock) Here is my rambling so far- thoughts?

There was a couple who long ago had made their vows, and could proudly say that they had stayed together no matter what. They could at least say that. But long after the days of hope and promise and being bound together as one, little by little it had all fallen apart. And they found themselves in a place where she cut all of the pictures of them in half and threw his side away, and he had cast her aside for the affections of another. And she gave him the silent treatment which made every meal at their table exquisite torture. And he would disappear but then return. And she would get up at 4 am and make his lunch for work each day. But no one would call it a blessed relationship. Or even really a relationship at all. Some might even say that a divorce would have been a blessing. There are many such relationships where in some way, it all goes wrong. And many reasons why. Places where people wondered why they ever walked away from where they had been, to end up in such a place of pain or shame, or anger or regret. Places where people wondered why if this was a relationship blessed by God, it had gone astray, and where some in pain would shout out that God would judge the other in the end. people would come to see me in my first career as a lawyer to find out how the law would fix this. I listened as one woman told me that her abusive husband said that the church would shun her if she left, and as one man told me he was met at the door by his wife who told him she had found someone on the internet and she just didn’t need him anymore. I have hours or perhaps days’ worth of stories. Over and over again I saw people walking with great wounds and disappointment and bitterness. Moments of regret for so many things that had been done or they wished had been. Some came seeking justification, some revenge, some a life raft in the swirl of financial and emotional needs. How can two households run on what can only sustain one? It was hard to not reduce people to laws and numbers and statistics in the challenge of whose needs matter most. What do we do with this brokenness? I used to start out by telling people at some point that there were three things I could not guarantee they would receive no matter how gifted in the law I was. I could not get them “a pound of flesh”, or a meaningful apology and I could not turn back the hands of time. In short I had no real solution for the brokenness.

We find ourselves today in another challenging place with Jesus. Last week we heard graphic language about how God feels when we place stumbling blocks in people’s relationships with God, and cut them off from community. We heard that in the times we cast others aside or disregard the dependent, God wants our attention. And we move from hearing about the plight of children who were often caught in the wake of the decisions of others that left them hurt or worse, to the plight of women who were the object of marriage contracts and yet sometimes viewed as disposable and without concern for their being separated from the embrace of companionship and support. More talk about the pain and heartbreak of what happens when we cut off and cast out. And I would like to suggest that just as last week we could get caught up in the language about body parts, we could today get caught up only in the words “divorce and adultery”, or even the language of “man and woman.” There are lots of ways we divorce each other all the time. Cut off and cast out.

In the broader narrative across our lessons we hear that God does not intend us to be alone. We are created and intended to be in relationships- to have companionship and joy, to know embrace and love, to share comfort and care and to help each other. And when for a variety of reasons, and in a variety of ways, we are both on the giving and receiving end of broken relationship, it grieves God. Because God’s hope is even deeper than ours that we will be blessed and be a blessing to others in our relationships. And that when others see this, they will be amazed at our God. Sometimes it is hard to even hear that we are a part of God’s family, when our earthly understanding of families may look and feel more busted up than whole. It is in these moments Jesus again sees our need, and reaches out, embraces and blesses. Because beneath all our words and actions, justifications and regrets, we are those little children who need this. And so do our brothers and sisters around us in God’s world. Even the ones we cannot remotely fathom ought to be so blessed. We are forgiven and claimed by a God who in Christ, casts off our brokenness and failings and claims us through the cross. We can’t really expect or earn this, yet, by God’s grace, today again we meet Jesus at the table and hear the good news that in all of our need and need for forgiveness that we are not cut off or cast out but invited. Even in our conflicted places, we are invited, forgiven, healed and fed. The solution to our brokenness can only come from this. And yet in union with Christ, it does come.

Today happens to be World Communion Sunday, and if we really think about those words –World Communion- the whole world drawn together and made one in a relationship forged by Christ’s love, it means that it is a comfort and challenge that God’s family and table are that wide. But Thank God there is a place for us all. Blessed indeed.

Let’s listen to God in the words of Jan Richardson, a blessing entitled- “And the Table will be Wide”

And the table

will be wide.

And the welcome

will be wide.

And the arms

will open wide

to gather us in.

And our hearts

will open wide

to receive.

And we will come

as children who trust

there is enough.

And we will come

unhindered and free.

And our aching

will be met

with bread.

And our sorrow

will be met

with wine.

And we will open our hands

to the feast

without shame.

And we will turn

toward each other

without fear.

And we will give up

our appetite

for despair.

And we will taste

and know

of delight.

And we will become bread

for a hungering world.

And we will become drink

for those who thirst.

And the blessed

will become the blessing

And everywhere

Will be the feast.

Jan Richardson the Painted Prayerbook


Robin said...

I am going in much the same direction as you -- how surprising -- from the brokenness of my own family to my family law practice to Jesus' call for protection of the vulnerable and restoration of creation and his invitation to a reconciling meal for the whole world.

I planned it all out on the walk from which I've just returned -- now if I can only remember it long enough to write it down!

Law+Gospel said...

Robin- you speak of broken family. The opening story is from my own- this was my grandparents. Our life experiences have brought us to similar places it seems. Blessings for your proclamation.