The Season after Pentecost: Proper 22, Year B

The Sanctity of Human Relationships

  • Job 1:1, 2-1-10
  • Psalm 26
  • Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12
  • Mark 10:2-16

Discussions of what “marriage” means in today’s society in the United States has been a much debated topic in secular as well as sacred institutions in recent years. Episcopal churches are authorized to use a rite called “The Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant,” which is designed without reference to gender. (I Will Bless You, and You Will Be a Blessing)

Today’s gospel reading might offer an opportunity to offer further teaching and reflection on how we understand the role of the Church in marriage rites as well as the State. Many believe the Church should be the agent to “bless” while the State is the regulator of “license.” Also, what does it mean to be in a committed relationship, no matter what one’s sexual orientation? What does it mean to be united with another person as well as united with Christ? What happens when that union is dissolved?

A most serious issue of Jesus’ time was divorce.  The Jewish practice of marriage (and divorce) would be callous in our understanding today. Jewish law treated the wife as a possession without any personal legal rights and a statement of release (divorce) could be easily attained at the man’s request. A woman could be cast aside for the most trivial reasons (Deuteronomy 24:1). Jesus restores the God-given gift of marriage to its high place in God’s good order and calls his disciples to follow this principle in their marital relationships. Jesus teaches that marriage is meant to have a permanency that cannot aside

The Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music stated (via ENS)  identified characteristics the Church expects of couples living in marriage and other lifelong committed relationships: “fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication, and the holy love which enables those in such relationships to see in each other the image of God.”

“Such covenantal relationships can reflect God‘s own gracious covenant with us in Christ, manifest the fruits of the Spirit in holiness of life, and model for the whole community the love of neighbor in the practice of forgiveness and reconciliation,”  the report states.

The Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage (BCP 423-434) reflects the principles set forth in today’s gospel. Though marriage is a sacred relationship, the church recognizes the necessity of divorce where a couple cannot live into the commitment they made. It is expected that counseling, continuing concern, and repentance will be a part of Christian divorce.

The 2018 General Convention’s Task Force on the Study of Marriage has, for the last three years, monitored the use of two new marriage rites General Convention approved in 2015 for trial use by both same-sex and opposite-sex couples, aware of concern about unequal access to the trial use liturgies. Except for eight diocesan bishops, the report found widespread acceptance of the rite across the church. The task force proposed that convention require all bishops in authority to “make provision for all couples asking to be married in this church to have reasonable and convenient access to these trial rites.” An Episcopal News Service press release can be read here.

For reflection:

  • Read Genesis 2:22-14. What kind of relationship do these verses describe? Do you think this description is relevant or applicable to contemporary marriage? Why or why not?
  • Compare what seemed to be happening in marriages in Jesus’ time and what you see happening in the twenty-first century. What are the similarities and the differences? What do you think Jesus would say to his followers today?
  • How does marriage spiritually signify the mystery of the union between Christ and his Church? Although the Gospel passage affirms that God’s ideal is the permanence of relationships, imperfection and brokenness are realities in the world. How can the Church deal with unconventional and broken relationships with compassion and understanding?
  • Refer to today’s reading in Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12. What is the relationship of Christ to humanity as explained here? How is Jesus the same as us, yet different from us?
  • As you reflect on all of today’s passages, what insights do you have with regard to your relationship with God, with Christ, and with others in the created order?

About Sharon Ely Pearson

Wife, mom, grandmother; author, educator, consultant; trying to make a difference one action at a time. Christian formation has been my vocation for 40+ years - and counting!
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