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Limitless Love

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Heavenly Father, as we are united together as one in the feast of Holy Communion, let us be united in this time, that your word and your ways be heard and acted on. – Amen

Today is world Communion Sunday

On this day, all across the world - people of every Christian denomination, as part of their Sunday service are celebrating this occasion

            For some it is called Eucharist – meaning giving thanks

                        Others call it Holy Communion – emphasizing unity and commonality of purpose

Still others – The Lord Supper – whereby the focus can be on Christ’s last meal with his closest disciples the night before he was to be given over to suffering and death

            A death He freely accepted

It will be celebrated in churches similar to ours, inside, with ceremony and celebration with bread and wine shared in a very civil manner     

It will be celebrated outdoors in the heat of an African sun with literally thousands gathered, in a football stadium, gathered not like us for a mere 60 minutes, but gathered for well over 3 hours

Joyously, with dancing in the aisles and a sermon that would be short if it was only an hour

It will be celebrated by our fellow Canadians in the far north, with snow already a fact of life, with people who have traveled a great distance, by snowmobile to share in this great communal celebration

It will be celebrated in the forest, on the beach,

it will be celebrated amongst a small group gathered in a hut with no running water or electricity … - and in the busy cities of the world with giant screen TVs and every audio and visual tool the world has to offer

It will be celebrated in homes and apartments, in secret, in countries of the world where to be a Christian is an extremely risky thing to claim – where more people are being martyred for their faith than any other time in history

And it will be celebrated by us this morning

For some it will be with a loaf of bread, others neatly pre-cut cubes of bread, some with leaven bread and others still unleaven bread, as we will

            Some will have wine, others unfermented grape juice

Some will dip the bread into the wine and take both elements commingled and some separate or just one element – for some only a small priestly class of men are allowed to have both elements

Some people will come forward standing or knealing, others to stations through-out the worship space, and others (like us) will have communion brought to them in their seats

Some believe that the bread and wine actually physical transform into the body and blood of Jesus

Others see it merely as a remembrance

Others still describe it as the real presence of our Lord, however leave the understanding to a mystery

It will be elaborate and it will be simple – it will be with great explanation and it will shared without any description at all, in quiet reverence

Regardless of how world communion Sunday is celebrated, with all the variety and creativity that human beings can produce, with all the varied understandings of what is being celebrated

            It will be a holy feast of great joy to God

It is a world event of incredible significance to those gathered and to all the heavenly host

In communion with God – following the instructions of Jesus Christ – in the presence of the Holy Spirit … and in unity with Christians the world over

            In it we will take part in Christ’s command to live on earth as it is in heaven

                        It is nothing less than a heavenly rehearsal

It is into this setting that we have our scripture today

Now, just last week I stated “I may have said this before – if I haven’t, you will hear this again, I’m sure” – I just hadn’t read ahead to know that I would be repeating this the very next week…

In Seminary, in one of my preaching courses, the professor had two pieces of advice that have stuck with me

The first is that if something is controversial – when there is something that is dramatic in the readings of the day – you simply can not leave it hanging out there – you can’t let a difficult message be proclaimed and then not address it

The second is – if something is bothering you, the preacher, about the text, than you can bet that the something will be bothering others

or it is a message that God is prompting you to deal with

Today we have one of the more difficult passages scripture, from the mouth of Jesus no less, about something that is a common fact of life today – divorce

If, I was to have everyone raise their hand if they have either been in a relationship that ending in divorce or been affected by a family member or friend that had a marriage end in divorce

            I believe that every single hand in the congregation would be raised

                        Certainly my own hand would be raised

And if I was to ask Christians that have been part of a divorce what the bible said about divorce, I expect nearly everyone would be familiar with the passage from the gospel of St Mark that we had today

So what do we understand is a Christian biblical understanding of divorce to a people who have nearly universally been affected by it.

Well, before we go there; let’s listen to part of our reading today:

From the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’7‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, 8and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. 9Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

Now I am in full wedding mode this time of year, with weddings each week, and this passage is selected and read more than any other Gospel reading - and I am sure that if you have been to a few Christian weddings in your days you have heard this exact passage as part of the wedding celebration


How about we listen to another small section of today’s gospel reading:

13People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. 14But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. 15Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” 16And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.

This passage too is a highly selected passage for another pastoral office of the church – baptism

            I use this passage each time I meet with a couple in baptismal preparation

It is the most common passage read at baptisms …

and … it is part of our difficult passage on divorce from today’s gospel message

You might be thinking to yourself how could two beautiful small sections of scripture used in two of the most joy filled and exciting times of worship in the churches life come from such a difficult section on a difficult topic

You might be thinking, why can’t we leave the wonderful passage for weddings and the beautiful passage for baptisms and leave the rest alone

            You might be thinking that sometimes it is better to let sleeping dogs lie


But life is not like that

Into life there comes times of blessing and joy and there comes times of heartache and sorrow – in the real world outside these walls… and inside them… there is divorce

A plain reading of Christ’s words, as recorded here by Mark, will reveal that divorce is not part of God’s desire for us

            A plain reading - certainly

            Because God desires so much more for us then the death of something

The end of union of a man and women – the end of union between one family and another

God’s desire is that marriage is the mutual celebration of the expansion of life and love - and not ending of love

In my own life, I have had friends get married with all the hopes and desires of a life lived long in love

            Some coming to the conclusion that there are limits to their lives together

I have watched some decide that they were just too different and saw things too differently and they reached their limits to how much they could argue or fight over their differences

I have watched married friends grow apart, when once they did much together, over time they resorted in spending so much of their time moving in different directions only to determine the limits of their love for each other

I have seen infidelity, sparked by probably a multitude of reasons, and the infidelity being the final limit in which one could no longer accept

I have witnessed a lot of people who have reached the end of their limits and their marriages have ended in divorce

Many times it didn’t come as a surprise, but each time it came with sadness – each time, even when it was the best solution - it was a loss

and I believe that this is not God’s desire for us

Please hear what I am saying here

I am not suggesting that Divorce should not happen – I am not saying that God in any way condemns those that have made the very difficult decision to end their marriage

            But, I am saying that God’s heart is not for things broken – but for things whole

I believe that we have two pearls of pastoral scripture, one on marriage and the other used in baptismal services, in the midst of a difficult passage on divorce, because that is how and where God is

God’s grace is in the midst of our human suffering

            God’s desire and beauty can always be found in the midst of our failings

Our passage today, in which all who read it’s plain understanding - it will see it as a strong word on divorce  - And it is that – a strong word against divorce

            But, it is so much more than that

                        My hope and prayer is that you will see it in the midst of all its context and see more

When we consider the marriages that have gone sour, we can see manifested, limits of human love

            We can see where one has not lived up to the promises made to the other

                        We can see where two have drifted apart

We can see so many things – but in each situation, we can see the limits of human love

And Jesus, in the word of divorce, is using the topic of divorce to reveal a bigger message

Jesus speaks out against humanly limits

                        Jesus presents a very high standard of love

                                    Because Jesus present the desire of God heart

Where we are limited – the standard of God is limitless

It is not merely a passage about divorce – but a passage about God’s love

Jesus as God in the flesh can not speak in favour of brokenness – but could only speak of the ideal of the vastness and the limiteless nature of God’s love – speak not as people do – but speak revealing God’s desire and love for us

                        Remember that Jesus was not the one that brought up the subject of divorce

                                    It was the Pharisees that came and were trying to trick Jesus

They were trying to use the license, the flexibility that was provided in the law to trick Jesus in saying something either against the law or marriage

                        And to this Jesus expands the understanding

Jesus doesn’t rise to their bait and keep the discussion where they have left it

            Jesus elevates the topic to a much greater point

Jesus uses their abuses of the flexibility of the law to point out how they have abused God’s blessing of marriage

It is important to know that the law at the time allowed a mere piece of paper written by the man only to be all that was needed to establish a divorce

A man at the time could on a bad day of marriage merely write a note of divorce, bring it to the scribes and the priests and a moment later – the marriage was over

Anyone that has gone through the painful, long (often years) process of divorce in our modern western world will tell you that it is not that simple

and – this is a big AND – Jesus was using the metaphor of divorce and the fidelity of marriage as an example of God’s limitless love for us

            this is a story, plainly understood that God desire is not for divorce

                        but more importantly this is a teaching on God’s love for us

why else would we have this teaching on marriage and this beautiful teaching on how we should in child-like faith and trust come to God

            scripture is no island unto itself – considered together as a whole we see God’s greater purpose

and that is to use even the sorrowful sufferings of love gone sour and contrast that with God’s limitless love for us

So on this day of world-wide Communion Sunday celebration

            Let us cast aside, even if only for a moment, our short comings as frail and fragile humans

                        Let us take part in the heavenly rehearsal – envisioning us seated at the table of the lord

                                    Together in all the varieties of people and expressions of worship

                                                Let’s join in unity with each other and with God

                                                            Fulfilling our blessed duty on earth as it is in heaven

                                                                        Our celebration of God’s limitless love

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

Thanks be to God for a love that is beyond all we could ask or imagine

            Thanks be to God for a love that is beyond our limits


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