19th Sunday after Pentecost – B (Proper 22) LSB #’s 869, 695, 685
Text – Mark 10:6-9
But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male & female.’ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father & mother & hold fast to his wife, & the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.
GOD’S DESIGN – GOD’S WILL
We had a rule of thumb among the engineering crew I served with on the submarine. It was 50/50 – 80/20. What it meant is this – even if you had a 50/50 chance of getting something right 80 % of the time you would guess wrong. It’s just how life seemed to work.
Though we didn’t talk about it as the result of sin, that’s essentially what we were recognizing. Sin has corrupted the mathematical formula of 50/50 & turned it into an 80 % failure rate. The crew I worked with believed that you were better off putting in the effort to know the answer than to guess.
Submarines are designed to work a certain way. If you refuse to follow the design you will die. Yet, if you follow the design they are incredible machines capable of doing amazing things. Likewise, human beings are incredible creatures capable of doing amazing things.
Last month, a friend from the submarine called, & one of the things we talked about was the training we received. After 40 years, we are still amazed at what the human mind can be taught to do, especially under pressure, when your very life depends upon you & the people with whom you are working.
Maybe you remember this motto, created back in 1972 – “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.” After being adopted by the United Negro College Fund, it became one of the most widely recognized slogans in advertising history.
However, long before the advertising firm Young & Rubicam created it, the Creator of the human mind was inspiring St. Paul to write these words: “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life & peace.” (Romans 8:5-6 ESV)
Across the entire human race there is a vast range of individual decisions, but if you boil them right down, isn’t everyone in our world trying to find life & peace? My approach to that may seem crazy & selfish to you, & vice versa, but essentially we are all searching for the same result – life & peace.
Sin brought death & anxiety, not just into the world, but into our very heart & soul. Sin has turned our minds away from God’s design. If we set our mind on the Spirit of God there is life & peace. In the world we live in those are incredible & amazing outcomes.
However, if we remain where sin has left us, with our mind set on the things of the flesh, that is death. Listen to the conclusion in Romans 8:7, “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.” We could say in the context of that verse, that God’s law is essentially the same thing as God’s design.
If we set our mind on the flesh we are choosing death even when we believe we are gaining life & peace. And the devil certainly makes his temptations very appealing. The majority of people in our world are chasing after them. Most of what we hear & see in the news are the horrible results of death that come by not following God’s design.
Human beings are incredible creatures capable of doing amazing things – if we follow the design of our Creator. It is absolutely true that a mind is a terrible thing to waste, & so much of our own lives is filled with that waste, because we too are not always following God’s design. What’s on your mind this morning? PAUSE
From the Gospel reading in Mark 10, we know what’s on the mind of the Pharisees.
They have come to test, or to trap, Jesus. They firmly believe that they are gaining life & peace, but Satan has deceived them & they don’t know it. What they do know, is that this Jesus is staking out a very different path. They are not happy with it. He’s been bringing the truth & He’s getting pushback, but He does not stop revealing God’s design. Jesus said to them:
“Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male & female.’ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father & mother & hold fast to his wife, & the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Mark 10:5-9 ESV)
That is God’s design & God’s will. When we submit to that we find life & peace. God’s Spirit can work in us. When we refuse to submit to that we find anxiety & we find death. As the opening line of the Introit said this morning, “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.” (Psalm 127:1a ESV)
As the book of Hebrews stated, “Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.” (2:1 ESV) Those words apply not simply to how you & I were designed to live. Yes, all of us fall short of the glory of God, by far, & hearing about that is depressing news. But those are not the only words to which we should pay closer attention.
After Jesus deals with the question of divorce by going all the way back to God’s design for marriage at creation, Jesus then welcomes the children to come near. The illustration for us is that no matter how insignificant we are, even because of our sins, Jesus still welcomes us. No matter how much of God’s design we have broken, He is waiting for us to return to Him.
The author of Hebrews reminds us that in addition to the recognition of our failures & sins, God also bears “…witness by signs & wonders & various miracles & by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to His will,” (2:4 ESV) that Jesus has submitted to the heavenly Father’s will on our behalf. Jesus has not rejected God’s design, but embraced it, perfectly. For since the foundation of the world it was the heavenly Father’s design that Jesus should take our place in punishment for our sin. He took our place in order that you & I could be set free. That is also part & parcel of God’s design & God’s will, & they come together in one package.
Repenting of our sins & believing the good news are in some respects, one & the same thing. We can’t do one without the other, & it takes a miracle of God to work both of them in sinful creatures like we are. God’s design & God’s will are both blessings to us, but often it takes our failures to humble us so that we can see with the eyes of faith.
Whether it is marriage, or any other of the countless circumstances we find ourselves in, God is faithful, as demonstrated in Jesus, no matter what. We can count on Him to humble us & to rescue us. When He does that He empowers us for another new day of living out His design & His will. I pray that this news will be on your heart & mind throughout the week. Amen.
Love is humble, love is gentle, love is tender, true & kind; love is gracious, ever patient, generous of heart & mind: Never jealous, never selfish, love will not rejoice in wrong; never boastful nor resentful, love believes & suffers long: In the day this world is fading faith & hope will play their part; but when Christ is seen in glory love shall reign in every heart: May love be ours, O Lord. Amen. LSB 695:2-4.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet