… And so did Jesus. Or at least it seems that way in Sunday’s Gospel lesson.
I failed only one section of my General Ordination Exams. Back in the olden days (2007), there were seven canonical areas. I’m still amazed that I passed 86% of those areas, but I’ve never been surprised that I failed a pastoral care question in ye olde Theory and Practice of Ministry section. To quote my reader, “The response suggests little sensitivity.” I’m a to-the-point, type A personality, and so there are times when my pastoral response lacks sensitivity. And, on occasion, it could be described in a Miley Cyrus lyric.
Yesterday, in my sermon, I took a playful take on Jesus’ response to his disciples ongoing slump in understanding. Perhaps Jesus didn’t really have steam coming out of his ears. Maybe that was a bit of eisegesis on the part of a priest who lacks the patience part of the fruit of the Spirit. Still, there are moments when it seems clear that Jesus is just fed up with the people around him.
This week, the source of his frustration seems to be the ancient Hebrews (when in doubt, place blame on people long dead). The Pharisees are trying to trick Jesus into heresy as they ask him about divorce, and Jesus is quick with a to-the-point type answer, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you.” Or as the Contemporary English Version puts it, “Moses gave you this law because you are so heartless.” Or to put it in Steve Pankey pastoral terms, divorce became an option because human beings continuously fail at relationships. It was true as the Hebrews wandered the Sinai Desert. It was true throughout Second Temple Judaism. And, it remains true today.
Jesus offers a pointed answer to a pointed question, and it isn’t easy to hear, especially with a divorce rate hovering just below 50% (but shrinking, at least according to this article). We all know someone affected by divorce. We know how difficult it can be, not just on the formerly married couple, but on their children, even adult children, their grandchildren, their parents, their friends, and even their faith communities, and we know that divorce continues to happen because human beings fail. From time to time, each and everyone of us fails to live fully into God’s dream for us, and sometimes that failure ends in divorce.
While Jesus calls us to live fully into our created image, the grace of God remains steadfast for those who fall short. His love is not withheld from those who are divorced, nor is it withheld from the rest of us who still fall into sin on a regular basis. That’s the grace in this teach that lacks pastoral sensitivity. The love of humans may fall short, but the love of God never fails.