Marrying Souls

Proper 27C / Ordinary 32C / Pentecost +25
November 10, 2013

Haggai 1:15b-2:9

Psalm 145

Luke 20:27-38

Straught Wedding Cake TopperThere is nothing like the subject of marriage to bring out the zealot in people, particularly when it comes to defending “the institution”.  “The institution” of marriage is commonly seen as a towering monolith that has ordered the union of one man and one woman since the mythic beginning of the human race (“It’s Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve”).  “The institution” is viewed as sacrosanct and anything outside of it is condemned.  People defending “the institution” often try to trip up their opponents using a series of false equivalencies – “You support Gay marriage?  Does that mean people should be allowed to marry children and sheep, too?”

In the Gospel reading for this week, Jesus is also confronted by a group of interlocutors (Sadducees) who pose Him a series of questions on “the institution” designed to trip Him up.  The Sadducees were a group of priests who maintained the Jerusalem Temple, and who accepted the literal interpretation of the Torah but rejected Oral Law and belief in the afterlife.  They also tended to be associated with the upper classes of Jewish society.  When the Sadducees publicly challenge Jesus in this way, the stakes are high, because if He fails the challenge, it means that He is preaching contrary to the Torah and would potentially be subject to death by stoning as a blasphemer.

trick-question-alertSo the Sadducees pose their conundrum for Jesus to solve: If – under Mosaic law – a woman should marry a man’s brother after he dies so that she might still bear children, and the same woman (still childless) then goes on to marry seven brothers in succession after each one dies, whose wife will she be “in the resurrection” (Luke 20:28-33)?  If Jesus answers that there is no afterlife, then He has contradicted His own teachings.  If Jesus picks any one particular brother, then it would mean the woman is guilty of adultery with all the others, that that Jesus is supporting adultery (which is punishable by death).  The Sadducees smugly sit and wait for the trap to spring.

This Gospel reading falls into the pattern of “challenge-riposte” encounters that are narrated frequently in the Bible when Jesus is confronted by the religious authorities of His day (William R. Herzog II.  2000.  Jesus, Justice and the Reign of God: A Ministry of Liberation.  Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, pp.227).  Herzog details the significance of “challenge-riposte” encounters in first-century Palestine:

Zero Sum Game… opponents clashed in public debates in order to defend or acquire honor and avoid shame.  All ripostes were zero sum games; somebody won and somebody lost.  The winner gained at the expense of the loser, and the crowd determined who won (ibid.).

Jesus responds to the challenge by completely sidestepping the assumptions of the challengers.  The Sadducees were posing their series of questions under the common assumptions (at that time) that A) marriage is a tool for regulating bodies; B) women are given as property; and C) marriage works the same way in this age as in the resurrection.  Here is Jesus’ riposte:

Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage; but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage.  Indeed they cannot die anymore, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection (vv.34-36).

MarriageSo a woman honorably given in marriage in this life is more than just a body being traded as property.  She is a child of God.  Being traded as property is not something that goes on in the resurrection (Greek: anastasis), in the fluid spirit-realm where property and gender are moot points.  That which is promised in the anastasis has nothing to do with the assumptions we make in this aieon.  We are promised something far different and better.

When confronted with the Sadducees of this era, we are usually posed with similar conundrums: Are you for “traditional marriage”?  Or would you have people marrying children and horses?  The appropriate riposte, in this case, is “neither”.  In the act of Christian marriage, we are uniting the souls of two adults, under God and before the community, who are fully consenting in the act.  We are not trading a woman as property.  We are not regulating peoples’ bodies.  We are not expecting people to reproduce (What about people who cannot have children or choose to be childless?  Or older adults?  They are routinely and honorably married, of course.)  Because children are not adults, and because horses Illinois Gay Marriagecannot consent, the comparison is invalid and absurd.  When people (typically women) are given in marriage without consent (which still happens in many parts of the world), their souls are sinned against and wounded.  The union of two loving, consenting, same-sex adults, therefore, have nothing to do with the assumptions of “the institution” (as opposed to actual Christian marriage).

And congratulations to Illinois and Hawaii, the 15th and 16th states to enact marriage equality!  May the freedom of loving, consenting adults everywhere be respected!

2 thoughts on “Marrying Souls

  1. In Matthew 19:3-12 is another marriage riposte, divorce this time, brought to Jesus by Pharisees. Look at how Jesus answered them in the following verses.

    “3 The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?
    4 And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,
    5 And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?
    6 Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”

    You will notice what he said in verse 6, “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” Notice he used the term “what” instead of “whosoever” and that’s significant. To use the term “who” would have followed traditional teach teachings that marriage is between the different genders but by saying “what” he took away genders which allows for same gender marriages. However, it does not include prepubescent marriage as anyone not in puberty are to be considered “man-child” like we do deer’s offsprings by calling them fawn. Thus, prepubescent man are angel-like not for marriage nor any cause for sexual activity. It also would not include animal intercourse since no non-family species’ offsprings are sterile like the mule, offspring of the horse and ass, linger between lion and tiger or beefalo between beef and bison.

    If one read Jesus’ discourses on marriage the findings are he does not speak in terms of gender. Noticing what he said in verse 5 was rephrasing Genesis 2:24, in neither pace does it suggest what gender the wives are. We don’t know the gender of Adam until Genesis where Eve was the one to bear the children. Bible scalars are assuming was the boy prior to chapter six, that is also why it was written “there was not found ‘help meet’ for him” at the end of 2:18.

    For that cause, sister Rose, very well said.

  2. Elijah, that is a nice long bow that you just drew there ……

    The “what” in the second part of V6 indicates that the second clause “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” is subordinate to a prior subject. All of verse 6 is subordinate to verse 5. Which describes a relationship that you should recognise from Genesis – which is two different gender’s in complimentary.

    Rose, you make the interesting point that in heaven, Gender has no relevance – problem is that those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage – we are in this age – and Jesus very explicitly connects marriage to its complimentary gender requirements elsewhere and demonstrated above by Elijah’s biblical referencing.

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