Saturday, October 3, 2015

Holy Relationships

Genesis 2: 18-24; Psalm 8; Hebrews 1: 1-4; 2: 5-12; Mark 10: 2-16 

A theme that I see running through the texts this week is relationships, holy relationships. What I mean by that is relationships that are as healthy as they can be, between humans, and as grace-filled as possible between God and humans.
The man is at first one of God’s creatures, one of God’s creations. Yet, God anticipates having a relationship with this man, and hopes to give the man a partner – an equal – yet with different gifts. So God creates the wo-man from the man. The man and the woman are designed to have a holy relationship with each other and with God.
The psalm highlights the relationship between human and God. We are just a little less than divine – created in God’s image – so God is very mindful of us. We are not an afterthought, but precious, beloved, children. This connection, this relationship, between us and God in indeed very holy.
In Hebrews, the author – who may or may not be Paul – that’s a story for another time – the author urges the people to remain firmly grounded in their relationship with Jesus and with other believers. 
Ah, and then we get to the Gospel. Two kinds of relationships mentioned by Jesus in this passage. The first is about marriage and divorce. I don’t want to make light of the pain of divorce. I’ve been there, and I know how painful the ending of that relationship was. I know about collateral damage with children and in-laws and friends who must choose between spouses, and so forth. It feels like the end of the world -- or a new life, depending on circumstances. It’s about some holy relationships becoming not nearly so holy. It’s also about finding healing after the divorce, where it was no longer possible within the marriage.
Yet, we can’t really compare divorce in today’s world with divorce in Jesus’ world. In those days, a man could decide he wanted a new wife – because there were no children, or because she was no longer pretty, or because he had a better financial opportunity with a different woman. So, he could simply tell her that he divorced her, and that was that. If she had no family, she became a homeless person. Jesus objected to this practice, declaring that it was not what God intended to happen in a marriage. Such divorce made holy relationships unholy and sinful.
In contrast, Jesus turns once more to children as an example. Relationships with children are much simpler, without so many layers of rules and social expectations. Children receive love easily and give love quickly, with no strings attached. It is usually quite easy for children to have holy relationships with parents, and with God as much as they are able to understand and accept the love of an invisible God.
So, some examples of some holy, and not-so-holy, relationships.
You probably know that Mike and I watch a lot of old western TV shows. One of the favorites is Gunsmoke. The other day, I was struck by a story about Doc and a woman who came to town to get her sore arm taken care of. Doc was so kind to her she decided she wanted to marry him and run away with him.
The next day, her husband arrived in town and heard his wife had a lover. So, he went looking for Doc, and found out where he lived, which was on the second floor of a building. Chester, the Deputy Marshall, finds out the husband is looking for Doc and runs to protect him.
So, here’s the scene that caught my attention: Doc is upstairs, the angry husband is at the foot of the stairs with a gun, and Chester is standing between them. The husband says, ‘Get out of my way or I’ll shoot you.’ Chester replies, ‘Well, I guess you’ll just have to do that.’
The wife shows up at just that moment and tells the husband she was sorry, that she went a little crazy for a day or so, and now she wants him to take her back home.
… Since I spent the week thinking about holy relationships, this story struck me. Here we have a breaking relationship – with an abusive husband, a wife that is looking for love wherever she can find some tenderness, and Doc, who wants nothing to do with the woman except as a patient. Yet, as TV shows go, the couple went home, to put their relationship back together. Not the holiest relationship, but not totally unholy, either. [If the show had been filmed today, there would have been a scene with the husband and wife in counselling, but this was the 1960s.]
And we have Chester, standing between the jealous husband and Doc, willing to give his own life to save the life of his friend. Doc and Chester normally bicker and tease each other. But they love each other as friends, brothers. And, here, the love between them causes one to put his life on the line for the other. This is the sign of a holy relationship.
Another group of holy relationships happens right here. This week, a group of women packed dresses and t-shirts to be put into shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child. These holy relationships begin here, with the friendship among the women as they work together to make dresses for little girls. The holy relationship extends past that by including the youth group who did some of the tie-dying of the t-shirts and fabrics for dresses, and Including everyone here who contributed pillowcases and fabric and trim and cash donations.
And the holy relationship continues as the children who receive these boxes are blessed, and included in our holy relationships. Beyond that, the relationship will extend to the families and friends of the children until the whole community is blessed.
God created us to be in relationship with each other and with God, and to find holiness in these relationships. Holy, healthy relationships take time and care and attention. We need to take time to be with each other, in our relationships with family and friends.
And we need to take time to be with God, with Jesus, with Spirit. It is just as important to tend to this human-divine relationship.
This week, pay attention to your relationships, the important ones with family and other loved ones, and the casual ones with cashiers and lawn mow-ers and restaurant servers. Do you treat them as holy? Even the casual ones? Do you treat your relationship with God as holy?

Please pray with me. Holy One, you made us in your image, call us to be in relationships. Lead us to treat all of our relationships as holy, worthy of our attention, our care, and your love. Amen