Made in God’s Image
Sermon Preached by The Reverend Dr Sam Cappleman
I heard a comment during the week that apparently there was something on the radio last week about allowing heckling during sermons, allowing people to interrupt with their own comments, quips and questions.
I think that might be quite a good idea - not because I’d want to heckle some of the preachers I have heard in the past, nor because I think I’d be able to respond with some quick repartee or repost if it happened to me…
But because it might guide the preacher into what was really important for the listeners and encourage dialogue.
In a sense, that’s what we see Jesus doing. In verse 1 of Mark 10 we read that Jesus is teaching the crowds and His followers. Then, in what will be a repeated scene throughout the gospel, some Pharisees come along and begin to ask Him loaded questions, perhaps even heckling Him as he was speaking
And so Jesus begins to respond to them. He asks them what the law is on the matter of adultery, the question they have asked him.
Now at this stage, it’s very clear the Pharisees are not the least bit interested in the pastoral dimension to this question, it’s purely political, trying to trap Jesus.
Remember Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist had already been arrested and ultimately beheaded because he questioned what Herod was doing with his brother’s wife. It was well known that the Herod family was notorious for broken marriages so the Pharisees come to Jesus with a question which was loaded not only from the religious perspective, but from the political one too
By the time of Jesus the original concept of marriage, as we read about in Genesis, had become surrounded with legislation and procedure, and Jesus’ response immediately turns the question back to this original intention of marriage and challenges the Pharisees and other adherents to the letter of the Jewish law to be sure that they are not instrumental in the original purpose being undermined.
Sometimes these gospel verses are taken out of context, and whilst we can’t get away from the words Jesus spoke we need to understand them against the backdrop of the exchange and circumstances which led to them being spoken.
Jesus does not directly answer the Pharisees questions about divorce, because He knew that they were asking a loaded and somewhat irrelevant question to which they had no real interest in the answer.
Jesus quotes from our Old Testament reading and underlines that God’s answer to man’s loneliness in Genesis is to create woman and for them to forge a new life together, independent of their families. God’s model is for them to leave the security of a known relationship with parents to step into a future with someone else, clinging to them, not the past with their parents.
Indeed when the man sees the woman, he said (Heb = ‘iamr’ or ‘exclaimed’ as it translated in the original editions of the Jerusalem Bible!) that the woman is bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh.
Jesus is saying very clearly that the fact and reality that in God’s order of things men and women are created for each other is in no way set aside or changed because of any Mosaic principle based on hardness of heart and our own human failings.
We are all created in God’s image, but because we are human, we break this image time and time again as we fall short of the ideal which God has in store for us
When the word became flesh, the implications would be far more than mere words or a clarification on Mosaic legal principles. The word became flesh to bring about the new world order that God had ordained in his creation.
Jesus replies in the way He does because He has come to restore God’s creation to its original purpose and intention. And relationships are a fundamental part of this created order, as is clear from our reading in Genesis.
And whilst negative and critical heckling is not necessarily the basis for strong relationships between people and nations, positive and constructive dialogue is.
Throughout His ministry Jesus constantly speaks out and acts against anything that seeks to break down communities and families, from healing sick people and restoring them to the community to teaching on the need for mutual love and understanding for each other in our families, friends and beyond, even to our enemies.
The Pharisees were looking at how to justify themselves in God’s eyes. Jesus changes the focus to how we can bring God into our broken and often heard hearted lives for healing and completeness and to build up our common life as humans together, sometimes in families, sometimes not.
And once we change from trying to justify ourselves to trying to catch a glimpse of what God is about in our world, and then join with Him and all creation in bringing that purpose about, our lives are transformed.
That’s when the hardness of heart Jesus speaks about, our turning our back on God, which we all exhibit from time to time, can melt just a little, yield and change so that we get God’s perspective on the world and not our own.
God wants to know the questions we have, He wants us to heckle Him until we get the answers we are looking for. But He does need us to listen when He speaks through His interaction with His world
Because, whatever the world and its peoples look for; peace, stability, security, certainty, whatever; whilst we continue to look in places that are not God or do not listen to Him, we will not find them. Whilst we try to find them without dialogue and engagement with others, we will not find them.
It really isn’t complicated. When little children come to their parents they accept without question the unbounded love their parents have for them. They don’t try to justify why they deserve it, they embrace it as the natural expression of love which it is.
Love the way God intended. Uncomplicated, simple, open, all encompassing, self-giving and complete.
Love which is God centred, not self-centred, love which looks to engage with others so that God’s world, and all the people in it, are restored to the original glory of His creation and a relationship with Him through Christ, and each other.