Third Sunday after Pentecost

Pastor Anke Deibler

  • Genesis 3:8-15
  • Psalm 130
  • 2 Corinthians 4:13—5:1
  • Mark 3:20-35

Grace be to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

As stated in the bulletin, you are invited to tell us what topics you would like us to address in sermons. A while ago, one of you asked for a sermon on Christian marriage. Today, we are reading about Adam and Eve, the first couple in the Bible, so it seems to be a good day to see what they and Jesus can tell us about God’s ideas of a good marriage.

Adam and Eve were literally made for each other. The second chapter of Genesis tells us about the creation of Adam and all the animals. Eventually God realized that animals were not sufficient to meet Adam’s needs of companionship and relationships. God saw that it is not good for humans to be alone, and God decided to do something about it.

God caused Adam to fall into a deep sleep. Then God took a rib of Adam to form Eve. In fact, God took a lot more from Adam; the Hebrew word really means half. God took half of Adam to make Eve. God – wait for it – split an Adam.

Anyway, when Adam wakes up and meets Eve, the reaction is pure joy: “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” There is excitement, there is love, there is joy, there is recognition that this other person can complete him.

Every marriage begins with this joy and excitement. Remember the time when you first recognized that your partner was special, was causing you excitement, was completing you? There is that first infatuation, when you can’t eat or sleep and think of the other person all the time. That is followed by the wonderful time of courtship when you get to know the other and grow closer and rejoice more and more in being together. Eventually, you decide to spend the rest of your lives together.

All marriages and partnerships begin with this love and hope and joy; with the expectation that this harmonious togetherness would continue indefinitely.

Before too long, however, there are bumps in the road. We are all human beings with plenty of shortcomings, and those shortcomings can challenge the happy partnership God had intended for us.

In Adam and Eve’s case, the sin was the suspicion that they were missing out on something. God had allowed them to eat anything they found in the Garden of Eden, except the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The serpent shows up and whispers into their ear: “Why would God do that to you? Doesn’t God love you? Why is he holding something back from you? Wouldn’t life be better if you could eat the forbidden fruit, too? What are you missing out on?”

A lot of marriages get into trouble because one spouse suddenly feels like they are missing out on something. Would I have more pleasure with that younger person than with my spouse? Would I have more money to spend on what I like if I was no longer married? Would I have more freedom if I were by myself? Would I have more fun if I looked for another partner?

This nagging feeling that the grass is greener on the other side, that life is better outside than inside the marriage, that gets couples into trouble. It leads to betrayal, deceit, and unfaithfulness. A number of other sins arise out of that.

We can see that in Adam and Eve’s case: The nagging feeling that they are missing out on something makes them cross the boundary and eat the forbidden fruit. The moment they are found out, they start the blame game. “She made me do it.” “The serpent made me do.”

Oh, how good we are at playing this game. We are so creative when it comes to blaming others for our missteps. She gained so much weight. He works so many hours. She spends too much money shopping. He hangs out more with his buddies than with me. If it weren’t for your student loans we could do this. If it weren’t for your child support we could do that. And on and on it goes.

And we don’t stay in the moment with these accusations, either. Okay, I made this mistake, but in 1999 you did such-and-such. Or we generalize our accusations: You always put the kids first. You never help with the dishes.

What is the result of these blame games? Broken relationships. Adam and Eve fight with each other. And Adam and Eve hide from God out of fear. Both their relationship with God and their joyful partnership are in shambles. It is really sad.

What is the answer to this? For that, let’s look at our gospel text. Jesus’s family and Jesus’ adversaries think he has lost his mind, is possessed by a demon, is nuts, has lost his marbles. Why do they think that? The answer lies in the things Jesus has said and done leading up to this moment.

Jesus has proclaimed a message of the kingdom of God, a message of joy and healing. A key piece of that message is forgiveness. When four men bring their paralyzed friend, Jesus heals him by forgiving his sins. When he is accused of hanging out with sinners, he points out that they need God’s forgiveness more than anyone. Jesus is forgiving people right and left. And that’s what his family and adversaries think is nuts.

Our society regards forgiveness with similar suspicion and contempt. I remember watching a talk show with Reginald Denny as the guest, the truck driver who was beaten severely by black protesters during the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles. The interviewer asked him how he was feeling about his attackers. Reginald stated that he had forgiven them.

Whereupon the audience booed and the talk show host reminded everyone that Reginald had maintained brain damage during the beating. They assumed that in order to forgive his assailants, Reginald must be crazy or brain damaged.

A few years ago in my last congregation, I presided over a wedding for a man and woman who had been previously married to each other. Kermit and Lynn had been married for 15 years and had two children together, when they experienced a crisis. Kermit had mental health problems and Lynn sought comfort and pleasure in the arms of a co-worker. They got divorced. Three years later they decided to get married again.

In the congregation immediately prior to the wedding service in church, I heard one relative say to another: “She must be crazy to marry him again.”

No, not crazy, just forgiving. They both were. Kermit forgave Lynn her extramarital affair. Lynn forgave Kermit his erratic behavior and his former refusal to seek help. They went to counseling and were able to rebuild a good, loving, mutually supportive, mutually forgiving relationship. They are still married today.

Forgiveness is a key ingredient in any relationship. It is also vital to a solid, Christian marriage.

Forgiveness is the only thing that can stop the blame game. When you are willing to forgive the other, then all those things in the past loose their poison and cease to be ammunition in your fights. In forgiving, we acknowledge that we are failed human beings, far from perfect, and that all participants in a partnership have reason to need forgiveness and to forgive.

Jesus is modelling to importance and blessing and cost of forgiveness for us. In any relationship, forgiveness is essential. Especially in marriage, when you live so closely together, you are not going to make it work if you can’t forgive.

Pastor Eric always includes a charge in his wedding sermons, a charge he learned from a wise old pastor many years ago: “Groom, do more for your wife than she can possibly ever do for you. Bride, do more for your husband than he can ever possibly do for you.”

I would like to amend that: “Husband, forgive your wife more than she could possibly ever forgive you. Wife, forgive your husband more than he could ever forgive you.” And don’t wait for the other to ask for forgiveness, either. You might wait a long time, for how often does the other party not even know they hurt us, right? And while we wait, our anger simmers, until it finally explodes and erupts at something trivial with a vehemence completely out of proportion to the event. Instead, just forgive. Immerse your whole relationship in forgiveness, and it will be a much more peaceful, blessed life together.

Another thing Jesus says today is that a good relationship involves actions. “Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother,” he says. Relationship has something to do with doing.

I am reminded of a man from outside of our congregation who came for counseling. He had the feeling that his relationship with his girlfriend was coming to an end and was very unhappy about it. The more we talked about their partnership, the more I got the impression that this man didn’t do anything to enhance their relationship. He had no hobbies, no friends, no interests. Everything revolved around his girlfriend. And so he looked towards her for all fulfillment and entertainment and companionship. There is no way one person can give all that to another person.

I encouraged him to pick a hobby, start reading books, volunteering, in other words: Get a life, so that he was able to bring interesting experiences and energy into the relationship rather than be just a drain on it.

“Whoever does the will of God is my family,” Jesus says. Healthy relationships involve doing things, applying oneself, contributing one’s gifts.

Just as importantly, God loves it when faith is a factor in our partnerships. Doing the will of God involves worship and prayer and Bible study and service. When two partners are able to share their faith, they have a wonderful foundation for their life together. Praying for one another and with one another creates intimate ties. Sharing passion for Christ by worshipping together and serving together enhances the relationship. Knowing our partnership to be a gift from God gives us joy and assurance and reminds us that God is part of our relationship, guiding and supporting it with his presence.

So rejoice in your marriage, in your partnership, in your relationship. It at times can be a struggle, but with forgiveness and faith and by the grace of God it can be healed and restored and be once again the gift God meant it to be.

May God bless you in your life together as spouses, family members, friends, and members of the body of Christ, the church. Amen.

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