Archive for the ‘Divorce’ Tag

Good Society, Part VII   1 comment

Above:  Engagement and Wedding Rings, 1922

Image in the Public Domain

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Numbers 6:22-27 or 2 Kings 4:1-7

Psalm 69:1-3, 7-18

Hebrews 9:1-14; 10:19-31

Mark 10:1-15

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Four of the five readings occur in the context of adversity.  Two of these mention women and children.

Women and children were often the most vulnerable people in the Bible.  This was especially true if the women were widows and the children were minors and/or orphans.  The test/trap question about divorce in Mark 10:1-12 brought divorced women into the mix.

One of the greatest contributions of Richard Horsley to Biblical scholarship is focusing on practical considerations in the teachings of Jesus.   In this case, consider the economic hardships of Jewish peasants in Roman-occupied Palestine.  Horsley’s work on Christ’s thoughts about divorce in that cultural context informs my thinking.

Divorce was a leading cause of dire poverty among women, most of whom were already poor.  Without the protection of marriage, their options were bad.  Most widows knew that situation, too, unless they had a male relative (perhaps an adult son) to protect them.  The family unit provided security.

The juxtaposition of the teaching on divorce and the statement about children and humility is not accidental.  It tells another way the divine order differs from human societies.

Divorce remains a leading cause of poverty in the female population.  Divorce is necessary or preferable sometimes, as in cases of domestic violence, alcoholism, attempted murder, et cetera.  Nevertheless, it and marriage are matters to take seriously, for the good of all involved and for the good of society.

If more people practiced the Golden Rule more often, the world would be a better place and fewer people would suffer physical and/or emotional damage.  May we deal graciously with each other as we pray that God will do the same to us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 26, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ANNE AND JOACHIM, PARENTS OF SAINT MARY OF NAZARETH

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2019/07/26/devotion-for-proper-24-year-b-humes/

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Deuteronomy and Matthew, Part XIX: The Kingdom of the Powerless   1 comment

01427v

Above:  Jesus Blessing the Children

An Image from 1891

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2003688894/)

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-pga-01427

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Deuteronomy 30:1-20

Psalm 62 (Morning)

Psalms 73 and 8 (Evening)

Matthew 19:1-15

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Some Related Posts:

Deuteronomy 30:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/19/sixth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/27/second-day-of-lent/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/07/first-sunday-in-lent-year-c/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/12/proper-1-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/01/04/proper-18-year-c/

Matthew 19:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/07/week-of-proper-14-thursday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/10/week-of-proper-14-friday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/10/week-of-proper-14-saturday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/05/week-of-proper-14-wednesday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-14-thursday-year-2/

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Women and children were among the most vulnerable members of our Lord’s society.  Widows and orphans especially at risk.  Thus in Matthew 19:1-15, Jesus affirmed the dignity of women and children and the importance of commitments.  Some men divorced their wives for casual reasons, thereby placing the divorced women at great risk of falling through the cracks of society.  And, as Richard Horsley has taught me, some Pharisees permitted elites to divorce and remarry for reasons of consolidating control over land and other resources.  (Source = Jesus and Empire:  The Kingdom of God and the New World Disorder, Minneapolis, MN:  Fortress Press, 2003, page 122).  Jesus frowned upon people making a mockery of solemn commitments to God and each other.

Children were powerless.  So Jesus, of course, spoke highly of such socially invisible people.  The man who dined with notorious sinners, spoke at length about profound topics with women, and scandalized the defenders and guardians of ritual purity codes said:

Let the children come to me; do not try to stop them, for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.

–Matthew 19:14, The Revised English Bible

Welcome, O reader, to the Kingdom of God, where the meek inherit the earth, the hungry eat, the thirsty drink, and the powerless and socially invisible people are role models.  This is consistent with the best of the Law of Moses and the commandments of God in our mouths and hearts.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 9, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE FEAST OF THOMAS TOKE LYNCH, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF ANNA LAETITIA WARING, HUMANITARIAN AND HYMN WRITER; AND HER UNCLE, SAMUEL MILLER WARING, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT GREGORY OF NAZIANZUS, BISHOP OF CONSTANTINOPLE

THE FEAST OF SAINTS WILLIBALD OF EICHSTATT AND LULLUS OF MAINZ, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS; SAINT WALBURGA OF HEIDENHELM, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBESS; SAINTS PETRONAX OF MONTE CASSINO, WINNEBALD OF HEIDENHELM, WIGBERT OF FRITZLAR, AND STURMIUS OF FULDA, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOTS; AND SAINT SEBALDUS OF VINCENZA, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT AND MISSIONARY

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/05/09/devotion-for-october-28-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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The Original Principle   1 comment

Above:  Nablus, Palestine, Ottoman Empire, 1918 (Built on the Site of Shechem)

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Joshua 24:1-14 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Joshua assembled all the tribes of Israel at Shechem.  He summoned Israel’s elders and commanders, magistrates and officers; and they presented themselves before God.  Then Joshua said to all the people,

Thus said the LORD, the God of Israel:  In olden times, your forefathers–Terah, father of Abraham and father of Nahor–lived beyond the Euphrates and worshiped other gods.  But I took your father Abraham from beyond the Euphrates and led him through the whole land of Canaan and multiplied his offspring.  I gave him Isaac, and to Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau.  I gave Esau the hill country of Seir as his possession, while Jacob and his children went down to Egypt.

Then I sent Moses and Aaron, and I plagued Egypt with [the wonders] that I wrought in their midst, after which I freed you–I freed your fathers–from Egypt, and you came to the Sea.  But the Egyptians pursued your fathers to the Sea of Reeds with chariots and horsemen.  They cried out to the LORD, and He put darkness between you and the Egyptians; then He brought the Sea upon them, and it covered them.  Your own eyes saw what I did to the Egyptians.

“After you had lived a long time in the wilderness, I brought you to the land of the Amorites who lived beyond the Jordan.  They gave battle to you, but I delivered them into your hands; I annihilated them for you, and you took possession of their land.  Thereupon Balak son of Zippor, the king of Moab, made ready to attack Israel.  He sent for Balaam son of Beor to curse you, but I refused to listen to Balaam; he had to bless you, and thus I saved you from him.

Then you crossed the Jordan and you came to Jericho.  The citizens of Jericho and the Amorites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hittites, Girgashites, Hivites, and Jebusites fought you, but I delivered them into your hands.  I sent a plague ahead of you, and it drove them out before you–[just like] the two Amorite kings–not by your sword or by your bow.  I have given you a land for which you did not labor and towns which you did not build, and you have settled in them; you are enjoying vineyards and olive groves which you did not plant.

Now, therefore, revere the LORD and serve Him with undivided loyalty; put away the gods that your forefathers served beyond the Euphrates and in Egypt, and serve the LORD….

Psalm 136:1-3, 16-22 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,

for his mercy endures for ever.

2 Give thanks to the God of gods,

for his mercy endures for ever.

3 Give thanks to the Lord of lords,

for his mercy endures for ever.

16 Who led his people through the wilderness,

for his mercy endures for ever.

17 Who struck down great kings,

for his mercy endures for ever;

18 And slew mighty kings,

for his mercy endures for ever;

19 Sihon, king of the Amorites,

for his mercy endures for ever;

20 And Og, the king of Bashan,

for his mercy endures for ever;

21 And gave away their lands for an inheritance,

for his mercy endures for ever;

22 An inheritance for Israel his servant,

for his mercy endures for ever.

Matthew 19:3-12 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

Then the Pharisees arrived with a test-question.

Is it right,

they asked,

for a man to divorce his wife on any grounds whatever?

He answered,

Haven’t you read that the one who created them from the beginning made them male and female and said: “For this cause shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the twain shall become one flesh”? So they are no longer two separate people but one.  No man therefore must separate what God has joined together.

They retorted,

Then why did Moses command us to give a written divorce notice and dismiss the woman?

He answered,

It was because you knew so little about the meaning of love that Moses allowed you to divorce your wives!  But that was not the original principle.  I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife on any grounds except her unfaithfulness and marries some other woman commits adultery.

His disciples said to him,

If that is a man’s position with his wife, it is not worth getting married!

Jesus replied,

It is not everybody who can accept this principle–only those who have a special gift.  For some are incapable of marriage from birth, some are made incapable by the action of men, and some have made themselves so for the kingdom of Heaven.  Let the man who can accept what I have said accept it.

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The Collect:

Grant to us, Lord, we pray, the spirit to think and do always those things that are right, that we, who cannot exist without you, may by you be enabled to live according to your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Marriage is indeed a great gift, and not one for everybody.  I write as a never-married man who is content to remain unattached.  It is good that I am not a Mormon, for my single state would place me at a great spiritual disadvantage within that tradition.  But, as William Barclay wrote in Volume 2 of his commentary on the Gospel of Matthew:

…there are those who have taken upon themselves voluntarily vows of chastity, celibacy, purity, poverty, abstinence, continence.  That will not be the way for the ordinary man, but the world would be a poorer place were it not for those who accept the challenge to travel alone for the sake of the work of Christ.  (Page 208)

Here are links to other posts pertaining to divorce:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/11/04/week-of-7-epiphany-friday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/13/week-of-proper-2-friday-year-1/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/19/sixth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/12/proper-1-year-a/

KRT

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Now, for my main point…

The reading from Joshua is the first part of a speech which continues with the devotion for Saturday in the week of Proper 14, Year 1.  So, to help provide a hint of what verses 1-13 build up to, I have extended the reading by one verse:

Now, therefore, revere the LORD and serve Him with undivided loyalty; put away the gods that your forefathers served beyond the Euphrates and in Egypt, and serve the LORD.

That is the original purpose of the many laws of the covenant.  It is possible to become lost in the details of any elaborate law code, thereby reducing morality to a check list.  But that misses the point and evades the spirit of the law.  We human beings are as we think, for actions (excluding accidents) flow from attitudes.  And both the Old and New Testaments tell us to God fully and our neighbors as we love ourselves.  That is the big picture, the forest view.  So let us avoid becoming legalistic, lost amid the trees while deluding ourselves into thinking that we are practicing righteousness.

Let us consider the issue of divorce, for example.  The Law of Moses permitted a man to divorce his wife for almost any reason, but he had to issue a certificate of divorce.  And she had the right to remarry in such an event.  The assumed reason in the Mosaic Law was adultery, but the letter of the law did not specify this.  So, in a highly patriarchal age, a woman might find herself at great economic risk due to the whims of an uncaring man.  Jesus condemned this.

There was also a practice called Korban, by which a person gave property to the religious establishment, for the support of the professional religious.  This was often noble and well-intentioned, but not always.  Some used this as a way of depriving family members with whom they were at odds of financial support.  Jesus condemned this, too.

Many of us in the human species like to game any given system for own advantage, fulfilling the letter of a specified legal or religious system to appear good.  But we do not fool God when we act for selfish reasons.  God tells us to love each other, to care for each other, to support each other in our common life together.  That is the big picture, the forest view.  How is that for an original principle?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 10, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT SCHOLASTICA, ABBESS AT PLOMBARIOLA

THE FEAST OF HENRY WILLIAMS BAKER, ANGLICAN PRIEST

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Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on February 1o, 2011

Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/10/week-of-proper-14-friday-year-1/

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Posted October 6, 2011 by neatnik2009 in Joshua 24, Matthew 19, Psalm 136

Tagged with , , ,

Grounded in Love   3 comments

Wedding Rings

Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) 6:5-17 (Revised English Bible):

Pleasant words win many friends,

and affable talk makes acquaintance easy.

Live at peace with everyone:

accept advice, however, from but one in a thousand.

When you make a friend, begin by testing him,

and be in no hurry to give him your trust.

Some friends are loyal when it suits them

but desert you in time of trouble.

Some friends turn into enemies

and shame you by making the quarrel public.

Another may sit at your table

but in time of trouble is nowhere to be found;

when you are prosperous, he is your second self

and talks familiarly with your servants,

but if you come down in the world, he turns against you

and you will not see his face again.

Hold your enemies at a distance,

and keep a wary eye on your friends.

A faithful friend is a secure shelter;

whoever finds one, finds a treasure.

A faithful friend is beyond price;

there is no measure of his worth.

A faithful friend is an elixir of life,

found only by those who fear the Lord.

Whoever fears the Lord directs his friendship aright,

for he treats a neighbour as himself.

Mark 10:1-12 (Revised English Bible):

On leaving there he came into the regions of Judaea and Transjordan.  Once again crowds gathered round him, and he taught them as was his practice.  He was asked,

Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?

The question was put to test him.  He responded by asking,

What did Moses command you?

They answered,

Moses permitted a man to divorce his wife by a certificate of dismissal.

Jesus said to them,

It was because of your stubbornness that he made this rule for you.  But in the beginning, at the creation, “God made them male and female.  That is why a man leaves his father and mother, and is united to his wife, and the two become one flesh.”  It follows that they are no longer two individuals:  they are one flesh.  Therefore what God has joined together, man must not separate.

When they were indoors again, the disciples questioned him about this.  He said to them,

Whoever divorces his wife and remarries commits adultery against her; so too, if she divorces her husband and remarries, she commits adultery.

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The Collect:

O Lord, you have taught us that without love whatever we do is worth nothing: Send your Holy Spirit and pour into our hearts your greatest gift, which is love, the true bond of peace and of all virtue, without which whoever lives is accounted dead before you. Grant this for the sake of your only Son Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

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Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?

Take it to the Lord in prayer;

In His arms He’ll take and shield thee,

Thou wilt find a solace there.

–Joseph Scriven, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”

Printed in the Cokesbury Worship Hymnal (1938)

Experience has taught me that one knows who one’s friends are when one needs help the most.  Those we think of as friends but who are not really friends reveal their true nature when the chips are down.  These individuals are really hangers-on, I suppose.  But true friends are indeed gifts from God and emissaries thereof.  Count yourself fortunate if you have even one such person in your life, for such individuals demonstrate the best of phileo, or brotherly love.

And who should be better friends than two married people?  That, at least, is the ideal.  With that in mind, let us examine the text of Mark 10:1-12 closely.  Some Pharisees ask Jesus a question as a test of his orthodoxy.  The standard of orthodoxy from which they worked was the Law of Moses.  So consider Deuteronomy 24:1-4 (Revised English Bible):

If a man has taken a woman in marriage, but she does not win his favour because he finds something offensive in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her, and dismisses her, and if after leaving his house she goes off to become the wife of another man, and this second husband turns against her and writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her, and dismisses her, or dies after making her his wife, then her first husband who had dismissed her is not free to her to be his wife again; for him she has become unclean.  This would be abominable to the LORD, and you must not bring sin upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you as your holding.

According to the Law of Moses, only a man could initiate a divorce (on grounds of “something offensive,” which is to say, usually adultery), but, if he did, he had to grant his ex-wife a certificate of divorce so that she could remarry.  This was for the woman’s protection, for society was strongly patriarchal and women were generally economically dependent on men.  The playing field was uneven, with women having fewer rights than men.  A woman could ask for a divorce, but only a man could grant it.

Schools of thought differed on what constituted “something offensive” in the wife.  Adultery was certainly offensive, but some interpreted this condition to apply even to spoiling a dish of food or speaking disrespectfully of in-laws.  Consequently, many men divorced their wives for trivial reasons and place these women at great economic peril.  So Jesus condemned this practice and affirmed the value of women.  Females, he said, are people to cherish; they are things to throw away casually.

This is an apt setting in which to consider New England Puritan family law.  Puritans have a reputation as very strict and humorless people.  I know that they hanged falsely convicted women as witches and crushed an innocent man to death while trying to convince him to confess to being a warlock in 1692-1693, but Puritan family law was more favorable to women than some might guess.  Puritans believed that marriage exists for the sake of the family, and were sufficiently realistic to understand that preservation of the family requires divorce in some cases.  Professor Edmund Morgan, in The Puritan Family (Second Edition, 1966), wrote, “The grounds for divorce, as revealed by the statement of the ministers, were adultery, desertion, and absence for a length of time to be determined by the civil government.”  (page 36)  Wives sued successfully for divorce from husbands who had abandoned them.  (page 37)  Other legally valid causes of divorce were “natural capacities, and insufficiencies,” bigamy, and incest.  (page 35)  In addition, civil law forbade married men and women to strike each other, and courts enforced this rule.  (page 39)  In brief, lawful divorce flowed from one party disregarding a fundamental duty of marriage, as Puritans defined such matters.  The fundamental duties were  “peaceful cohabitation, sexual union and faithfulness, and economic support of the wife by the husband.”  (pages 41-42) The innocent party in the divorce proceeding was free to remarry.  (page 37) These laws treated women like people, not objects.

I know of a United Methodist clergywoman who divorced her first husband on the grounds of attempted murder.  Would any reasonable person deny her that divorce?

There are two parts of the law:  the letter and the spirit.  Clever legalists know how to manipulate the letter of the law to benefit themselves while violating the spirit of the law.  But let us honor the spirit of the law.  Let us respect one another and treat each other as human beings with dignity, people nobody has the right to throw away casually and place at undue risk.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 4, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARTIN OF PORRES, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF FELIX MENDELSSOHN-BARTHOLDY, COMPOSER

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Published originally at ADVENT, CHRISTMAS, AND EPIPHANY DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR and ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

The original posts:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/11/04/week-of-7-epiphany-friday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/13/week-of-proper-2-friday-year-1/

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