Pentecost 19, 2021
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
October 3, 2021
Genesis 2:18-25, Hebrews 2:1-13, Mark 10:2-16

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            We have a heart problem in our nation and it is affecting our families. As we heard a few weeks ago in our Gospel reading…Mark 7:20–22 (ESV) 20 … out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.”  We have a heart problem and it leads to no end of trouble. 

            As a culture we have forgotten what marriage is. We no longer understand that marriage is the lifelong union of a man and a woman.  This confusion has been going on long before the Supreme Court invented a right to same-sex marriage in 2015.

            So what is marriage?  Lately, folks have come to see marriage as a temporary relationship with your #1 person.  People believe that marriage is the recognition of an intense emotional relationship that lasts as long as that intense emotional relationship remains the #1 relationship in your life. 

            This is what most people in our nation believe marriage to be.  It grows out of the sexual revolution, the hook-up culture, cohabitation and no-fault divorce.  This country, for the most part in marriage, has abandoned monogamy, exclusivity, permanence and sexual complementarity.  Our society has sacrificed marriage on the altar of the sexual freedom.  As a human institution, marriage is beaten and bloodied.  It looks like marriage might be down for the count, but looks can be deceiving. 

Marriage is under attack, but marriage will never be killed off by people, because marriage is not a human institution.  Marriage is instituted by God in Genesis 2:24 (ESV) 24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”  Marriage is not what we say it is.  Marriage is what God says it is.

            Marriage unites a man and a woman comprehensively. It is a comprehensive sharing of life. It is a comprehensive permanence. It is a comprehensive forsaking of all others.  This comprehensive union requires an intimate bodily union; two becoming one flesh. Marriage is the complete, total sharing of life and is ordered toward life. 

            Marriage is what God says it is, and marriage is good. Marriage is good for the husband.  Marriage is good for the wife.  Marriage is good for the children.  Marriage is good for society.  Governments recognize this good. 

            Why do you need a license to get married?  Why does the state of Ohio care about marriage? Is it that the state government is a sucker for romance?  Does the state care if you are with your #1 in an intense, emotional relationship?  No.  The government knows that it is a great benefit for parents to be married and for a father to be there at the birth of his children, and be there to raise his children. [1] 

            In our Gospel reading today, the Pharisees are testing Jesus to try to distract Him from His ministry with a difficult, divisive question.  Is divorce allowed?  It is still a difficult question in churches today.  Lots of people have gone through divorce and it can leave you feeling ashamed, damaged and a lesser Christian than others.  I fear many divorced people in church feel isolated and alone.  Divorce does happen.  There are times when divorce is unavoidable and sometimes it is the best option in a bad situation.  The great good news is that Jesus forgives real sins including divorce. 

            Hard hearts cause divorce, and we are all at risk.  It is your constant battle in life.  I know it is mine.  We inherit a naturally hard heart from our great, great grandpa Adam and it wants to creep back in and lead us into selfishness and sin. 

            It is a touchy question — is divorce allowed?  The Pharisees are trying to trap Jesus, they want him to alienate some by saying divorce is always allowed, or anger others by saying divorce is never allowed. 

When questioned by Jesus, the Pharisees said that Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce.  Jesus explains why Moses did this.  Mark 10:5 (ESV) … “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment.  Remember, “out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.”

            Hard hearts cause divorce, and we are all at risk.  It is your constant battle in life.  I know it is mine.  We inherit a naturally hard heart from our great, great grandpa Adam and it wants to creep back in and lead us into selfishness and sin. 

You have an inherited heart problem but Jesus has given you the solution.  In your baptism, as we saw with Nate this morning, you received a heart transplant which is foretold by the Prophet Ezekiel. Ezekiel 36:26–27 (ESV) 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.”  In Christ you have a new heart; a loving heart, a submissive heart, an obedient heart.  In Christ, there should be no divorce.

            And yet there is divorce.  There is divorce because we live in a world of heart trouble. There is divorce because we live in a fallen world and we are by nature sinful and unclean.  There is divorce because with no-fault divorce there is nothing you can do if your spouse demands a divorce.  There is divorce because out of the heart flows sexual immorality and adultery.  There is divorce because sometimes the abuse that flows from a wicked hard heart makes staying married impossible and getting divorced the lesser of two evils.  Those who have been divorced know most clearly the pain and heartache and trouble brought about by divorce even when it is not your intention.  Thank God Jesus offers real forgiveness for real sins. 

            Marriage is built as the one flesh union of a man and a woman.  In marriage you lose your individual identity as you are comprehensively united with another. What St. Paul writes to the church in Philippi as to how followers of Jesus are to act toward others has an even heightened importance in marriage.  Philippians 2:3–4 (ESV) Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”  What a beautiful picture of a good marriage. 

            Marriage trouble is caused by heart problems.  I am acutely aware for myself that it is hard to admit when I am wrong.  I hate to admit I am wrong and yet it has happened once or twice over 33 years of marriage.  If you get into a heated disagreement with your spouse do not let the anger linger and let the devil get a foothold.  Do not let the sun go down on your anger.  Call a time out, take a moment to cool off, and then go your spouse and apologize for losing your cool.  Marriage is hard work.  When you are struggling with marriage because your heart is hardening, come to the Lord like a helpless child and pray in the words of the Psalmist David in Psalm 51:10 (ESV)  10  Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”  Confess the hardness of your heart.  Repent and turn back to Christ who gives you a heart of flesh.  Receive the forgiveness won for you on the cross of Calvary where Jesus’ heart is pierced so your heart of stone can be replaced with a new heart.  Receive the Body and Blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins.  Live under the will of the Holy Spirit who dwells in you.

For those who are single and seeking a spouse, pray God, if He wills, sends you a good Christian spouse with whom to share your life. 

            For those who have been divorced, know that you are washed clean in the blood of Jesus.  He has taken your shame and guilt as far from you as the East is from the West. 

            For those who are married, remember that your spouse is so much more your current #1 person.  This is the person God has comprehensively united with you to become one flesh, and God-willing, create new life.  “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”  Love your spouse with a selfless love.  Forgive each other freely.  Work together in service to get through each day.  Do the little things in service to each other.  Take out the trash, unload the dishwasher, vacuum the house, cut the grass, help the children with their homework. 

In baptism Christ has given you a heart transplant.  Embrace your new heart and be on guard against a hard heart creeping back in.  As a beloved child, love God, love your neighbor.  Forgive one another the way that Christ has forgiven you.  Love your spouse with the heart of flesh given you by Jesus.  Treasure your spouse as a gift from God.  Amen.

[1] From presentation by Ryan T. Anderson 8/28/21 Davenport, IA

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