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  • Writer's pictureRev. Gerald (Jerry) Reiter, Emeritus

Enduring and Enjoying Marriage

Nineteenth Sunday After Pentecost


Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”


“What did Moses command you?” he replied.


They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.”


“It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,” Jesus replied. “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”


When they were in the house again, the disciples asked Jesus about this. He answered, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.”


People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.

Mark 10:2-16


“At the beginning of creation God made them male and female. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore, what God has joined together, let man not separate.”


Will you pray with me: Lord God, we thank you for all your gifts; and today we thank you especially for your gifts of love, marriage, family, and home – and for your Word about these gifts. Amen


Not all soap operas are on television. We see the characters of “Days of Our Lives” and “As the World Turns” – or is it “As the Stomach Turns”? – anyway, we see them every day at work, in our neighborhood, and maybe even in our homes. Some of you get to see the characters of “General Hospital.” How lucky can you get? :)


The soaps have an advantage: after the day’s episode is over, the characters shuffle off form the studio and away from the make-believe world. The traumas of the real world aren’t so easy to turn off. And yet, we not only can endure marriage, we can enjoy it!


Now, some might think that that’s the sadist’s way of prolonging agony. But I don’t believe in taking the easy way out in marriage. I believe that marriage is work, and it’s hard work sometimes, but it’s worthwhile work – and it can be enjoyable work!


We read that divorce rates are up: 60% of marriages today in our country fail. And more and more couples are living together outside of marriage. And yet, marriage is still in style. In spite of the “new morality”, the “new sexuality”, the “new feminism”, the “new freedom” – and in spite of our lack of trust in government, and our loss of faith in old values, people are still declaring their trust in each other by making what they hope will be a once-in-a-lifetime commitment to another human being.


We need to be concerned about rising statistics. The home as most of us know it is disappearing before our eyes. But we don’t need to be totally pessimistic about these trends, because there are still many struggling couples who have decided to struggle together to solve their problems, rather than trying to solve them separately. They’ve discovered that they can endure, and even enjoy marriage through a renewed commitment to one another, as together they commit themselves to God. Together committing themselves, not only to each other, but also to God! Remember, it was God who said, way back in the Garden of Eden: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.”


Away from the videotaped soap operas and the Hollywood caricatures of marriage, there’s a secret to making love work out in the real world. The secret to making love work – and so making marriage work – is forgiveness!


Forgiveness! Of course, the proud and the arrogant won’t have any part of it. Those with super egos and “wronged spouse” syndrome will automatically reject it. But if you want to not only endure your marriage, but actually enjoy it, then you’d better learn forgiveness.


The first question that needs to be answered is, “What’s the ultimate goal of marriage?” What’s the objective of marriage? What’s the purpose for your marriage? I believe Jesus says it’s unity.


In our Gospel lesson, Jesus said, “A man will leave his father and mother, and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” And in case we didn’t pay attention, He said it again: “So they are no longer two, but one!” Christian marriage is the joining of man and woman, the uniting of two persons, to become one.


But that’s a process, and sometimes the two persons have a discussion that turns into an argument. Tempers flare, things are said and done that never should be said or done, and the picture of wedded bliss starts to get some cracks in it. That’s when love and forgiveness comes to repair the damage – and actually make it stronger and more beautiful!


The trouble is that as the years pass by, and some of the dreams are fulfilled, couples may become so involved in their own activities that they fail to see themselves as a unit. They can become concerned about “identity” and “assertiveness.” We have the liberation movement which seeks to separate the unity of husband and wife rather than solidify it.


Of course, the two people in a marriage aren’t supposed to get rid of their personalities and their interests. They brought those things into the marriage and those personalities and interests are what make them interesting, and what attracted the other person in the first place! But they need to learn how to subject them to the object of marriage: unity. Instead of being divisive and separating forces, the gifts people bring to their marriage need to make the bonds stronger!


A little boy decided to try out his new hatchet on a young apple tree. With one whack, he nearly cut off the lowest branch. His father saw what he had done, stopped the boy from doing any further damage, and sent him to get some rags. He carefully splinted the branch, and wrapped the cloth around it like a bandage. The branch was saved, and fruit developed from the blossoms on it.


The objective or purpose of a fruit tree, of course, is to bear fruit. When something destructive like a hatchet is used on it, the purpose is lost to carelessness. Yet, when it was bound together and carefully tended to, the branch was able to fulfill its job of providing apples for the family table.


What’s the purpose of your marriage? If it’s only to be kindling wood rather than a provider of future harvests, you can expect some hot and fiery experiences to destroy it. If, however, your intention is that your marriage should bring forth blossoms and crops of fruit, then you’d better find the quickest way to bind up the severed branches. The objective of marriage is unity.


Which brings us to the second point. If the objective of marriage is unity, unity will be achieved because you’ve discovered the love formula of Christ. You’ve learned to live in forgiveness. Forgiveness is what will make your marriage an enduring and an enjoyable one!


St. Paul tells us, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ, God forgave you.” (Eph. 4:32) The way that Christ’s love for us penetrates our sinful hides is through forgiveness. If Jesus merely said He loved us, but didn’t forgive our sins, nor pay for them, we wouldn’t have much to hope for. But Jesus lived that love by dying for us.


And He spoke the words of forgiveness to all kinds of people. The woman caught in adultery was about to be stoned. Jesus said, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” The crowd walked away and He told her, “neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin.” That was love that was spoken in forgiveness. If Jesus can love us like that, can’t we live in forgiveness of those whom God has given us to be our life-long spouses?


If Christians know anything at all about their Christianity, they know that they’ve been forgiven. And they don’t dare receive that forgiveness and keep it to themselves. They must pass it on to others – and that includes their spouses!


There’s only one tried and proven way by which you can endure your marriage, and enjoy it to the full. And that’s to love one another in Christian forgiveness. With Christ in our heart we have the source by which we can love again and overcome whatever ugly monster has threatened our relationship. “Forgive each other, just as in Christ, God forgave you.”


There’s really only one objective to marriage, and that’s the unity of two different people, in Christ, for a life together of all kinds of blessings – and children are a blessing! And there’s only one way by which the union of two people can be guaranteed to be durable and enjoyable, and that’s by loving in forgiveness!


In Jesus Christ we can endure and enjoy one another. Marriage may be in trouble statistically in this country, but there are many who are discovering a far better way of handling problems than divorce. They’re inviting Jesus to make it a threesome!


The unmarried should know that marriage is serious business. There’s no room for quickie marriages nor for getting married because everyone is doing it. There’s only room for those who see marriage as a life-long relationship, a potential experience for mutual happiness, and who are willing to work at it. And if you think that living together before you’re married improves your chances for a durable, happy marriage, you’re kidding yourself – going against logic, statistics, and God’s Word!


Marriage is a unity. It’s secret is love that is lived in forgiveness. It’s promise is continual growth, where two give themselves to one another while committing their lives to Christ, who always gives joy to the faithful.


You can survive marriage. You can endure its struggles. And more than that – you can enjoy it! If that’s not happening to you now, join with me in the prayer that it will.


Let us pray. Lord, we thank you for a love that makes marriage beautiful. Thank you for the forgiveness of sins which erases the irritations and misunderstandings which come between husband and wife. Thank you, Lord, for taking down all the walls of jealousy, of suspicion, mistrust and anger, and making us one with each other again. Thank you for companionship and the joy of love and marriage.


Lord, if you’ve been forgotten in our marriage, be our guest again and come live with us. If we’ve lost our commitment to you Lord, we surrender our lives once again to you. And Lord, if we’ve become careless in our worship and our prayer life, give us the motivation and discipline to be your disciples. If we’ve failed to grow in our marriage relationship, help us to grow closer to one another as we grow closer to you.


To the divorced, grant the Spirit of Christ to be alone but not be lonely. To the widows grant friendships and inner strength and peace to live in and through the loneliness.


To all of us, Lord, grant a return to your altar for renewal of our faith, and receipt of your love. May our love for each other and for our children and parents grow. Help us all to begin again, to start over when we fail, and to let Christ be our Savior and Lord. We pray in Jesus’ name.


Amen.

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