Ot. 4Everybody just loves Francis. And I’m not even talking about the current pope.
I’m talking about the guy he named himself after. Francis of Assisi. You don’t have to be Roman Catholic to think this guys was a saint. St. Francis is all about sun, moon, stars, animals. What’s not to love about. So Julie, I just want to thank you today, for this liturgy, because otherwise I’d have had to do something with the scripture readings assigned for today. And let me tell you, I’ve heard just about enough of bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh, God making them male and female, man leaving his father and mother to cleave to a woman, God making them Adam and Eve–not Adam and Steve.
I am so glad I don’t have to preach/sermonize on these words, on marriage, on the sanctity of marriage, one man-one woman, and divorce and all that.
It’s so nice to just talk about our wonderful animals (whether stuffed or the critters we have at home). it so nice to talk about how they are our friends, our companions, how they care for us, and we care for them, how they keep us from being alone and lonely.
You know, there actually is a difference between being alone and lonely. I can be by myself and feel totally ok, feel loved, accepted, part of something bigger. And then I can be in a crowded room and feel completely isolated, lost, and adrift. And that’s what God does not want us to be–lonely. That’s why God gave this world such a beautiful and astounding diversity of animals. Isn’t that really what we can read in those words from Genesis? But, oh yeah, but I don’t have to go there today.
Because we don’t really want to. I mean, those words from Genesis have been so often used as weapons against LGBTQ people. Especially on a day like today we can just focus on Francis and ignore all this other stuff.
That’s all I wanted to do when I was young, and even though I was thinking about being a pastor. I was just interested in religion and spirituality–being one the with the divine. That was until I went to college and I feel in love–fell in love 3 times.
Some of you know and saw my husband Brad last week. We met in college, that’s where we dated and then got married in 1992 in Weaver Chapel at Wittenberg University. But he wasn’t my first love.
The Bible, weird as it sounds, became my first love in college. Let me explain. Before college, the Bible and I well, we didn’t have the best of relationships. I had read the Bible, I had read Genesis, I had read Revelation, and I had read some of the in-between stuff. And you know what, it really seemed to me to be a bunch of stuff–laws that judged people, stories of this person or people killing those people, it seemed to me to be, let’s see how I put it–the superstitions of primitive people. Not very open there, kind of dismissive right, not very accepting and loving.
That is until I took, Dr. Barbara Kaiser’s class Manhood and Womanhood in the Bible, and then just about every other class I could get with her–and I fell in love–fell in love with the Bible. Sure there is stuff in there I don’t like–but we can’t through the proverbial baby out with the bath water. Just like in most relationships we can’t just ignore them and hope they disappear and go away.
So getting back to falling in love. See my eyes were opened that the first two chapters of Genesis is not one cohesive, one authoritative explanation/description of creation. There are in those two chapters not one but two really different stories of creation. It’s a two-fer. That blew my mind. The Bible is not a history, it is not a text book. So, the passage we have for today is from the second story, and this gives us a real earthy picture of God, a real relational picture. This isn’t the God of chapter one who is floating out there somewhere outside of time and space and commanding in that booming male voice–let there be light. No this is a picture of God who gets down in the dirt to create, who gets bloody to make sure that we are not alone. This God is so super relational. This God wants us to not be lonely, isolated, adrift, and lost. So for those folks who think these verses are all about marriage. I’d be a little worried, because God’s first thought was hey, how about a camel, kitty, or some other creeping critter. God wants us to love and be loved and well there’s all sorts of love–even more than those three Greek (agape, philia, eros).
There’s all sorts of things we fall in love with. Like me in college I have mentioned 2 loves thus far, Brad, the Bible, and sorry this one doesn’t start with a “b” — I fell in love with smoking cigarettes.
That might be a surprise to some of you who know I’m running. But running came much later. First there was freshman year and all the freedom that brings including cigarettes and other things. Now I was never a pack-a-day girl, but I sure liked to have a smoke after dinner, between classes, at a party or two. And yes, a part of me fell in love with that–so much that to this day, I still (under the just the right circumstances) would just love to light up. But I know that’s no good, not good for me or anybody. Smoking bad!
That’s another thing about love. Sometimes the things we fall in love with, just aren’t good for us. Ok, maybe they are good at a certain time or place, but sometimes they aren’t and those relationships turn bad, turn sour, they break, and they must come to an end. Often the relationship that was meant to keep us from loneliness is broken way before the divorce papers are ever drawn up.
Wait I thought we weren’t going to talk about that, and just focus on the good stuff, the fuzzy stuffed animal stuff. But God’s more than a big teddy bear in the sky. Life isn’t all warm and cozy. Real life is hard, like the words we heard Jesus saying this morning. There is no way around it, Jesus explicitly says (unlike being gay of which he says nothing), divorce and then remarriage equals adultery.
Now it it true that Jesus lived in a completely different world. Divorced women were shamed, divorced women were vulnerable, they were lost, isolated, adrift– not just emotionally but often physically, financially–they had no money, no family, no protection or security. And that is not what Jesus wants for us, for any of us. So in that context, Jesus words do make sense.
And–and this is a big and. These these aren’t the only words Jesus says, and just as it’s not good to focus only on the cute and cuddly, it’s not good to focus only on one liners. The thing I really fell in love with in the bible is that God, especially Jesus as God’s love isn’t just for the good, the upright, the families with one man (one father), one mother (one woman), and 2.5 well behaved perfect successful and obedient and above-average children. As if that entity ever existed. The God who we meet in Jesus, in the bible is the one who loves us, all of us, not despite our divorce, not despite our scratchy glassy personality, not despite our addictions. Jesus says you are forgiven, it is not good for you to be lonely. God is merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and all that means is: Simply as God chooses over and over again to fall in love. To fall in love with creation, to fall in love with children and animals, to fall in love with us, to fall in love with you. Amen.